Weekly dilemma: World Cup working arrangements

A group of my employees have asked what working arrangements I’ve put in place for the World Cup. I haven’t made any plans. What should I do?

A recent survey by XpertHR indicated that 63% of UK organisations questioned have already put arrangements in place for their employees to watch this summer’s World Cup matches during working time. In addition, the TUC has called for employers to allow staff the opportunity to watch games during working hours, and make up the time lost at a later date.

The starting point is that you have no obligation to provide facilities for employees to watch matches. If they wish to take time off work to watch the games, they would need to follow your regular procedures for holiday. But the World Cup is of course very popular, and as a result of high demand for time off, you may well have to refuse some requests.

Employers that adopt a very rigid and inflexible approach to this issue may well find that it backfires on them, resulting in reduced morale and increased absenteeism.

You may prefer to see the tournament as more of an opportunity to boost staff morale and improve loyalty, and even turn games into team-building events. Even if you do not want, or are unable, to provide facilities at work for viewing matches, you may want to consider temporarily altering working practices to be flexible as to start or end times, which would allow employees to make up lost time at a later date. This encourages employees to take responsibility for organising arrangements, to ensure the appropriate levels of cover are maintained and customer service and delivery is not adversely affected.

Best practice would be to circulate a brief World Cup policy, making what will and won’t be permitted clear to all employees, and the likely disciplinary sanctions that might be imposed in cases where the policy is breached. This policy should also remind employees who perhaps overindulge in their celebrations and fail to come to work the following day that they will be subject to your relevant procedures, which may include disciplinary action.

Given the wide range of nationalities that now make up the UK workforce, you must ensure that non-English staff are afforded the same flexibility to watch their own national teams – whether at work or not – otherwise you will run the risk of discrimination claims.

It would also be a good idea to keep some areas of the workplace football free for those who aren’t caught up in the highs and lows of the competition.

Jane Hobson, employment partner, Weightmans

XpertHR guidance on the World Cup and the workplace

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