World Cup flexible working policies implemented by McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Asda

Some of the UK’s largest employers have put in place specially devised flexible working practices to allow staff to watch World Cup matches.

McDonald’s has revealed that more than eight in 10 staff are set to take advantage of its flexible working arrangements during the four-week tournament,

A representative poll of 67 of the company’s 80,000 UK employees found 84% plan to use flexible working initiatives – including swapping shifts, working part-time and taking unpaid leave – to watch World Cup games, which kick off next week (11 June).

The fast-food giant confirmed its flexible working policies would extend to cover all games taking place in the tournament, after employment lawyers warned firms could be at risk of race discrimination claims if staff were only allowed to work flexibly to watch England matches.

David Fairhurst, chief people officer at McDonald’s, said: “As a World Cup sponsor, we want everyone to have the opportunity to follow their team during the tournament. Exceptional events like the World Cup have the potential to give employee morale a boost and build great team spirit among colleagues.

“Football fans on our ‘Friends & Family Contract’ are already starting to swap shifts with colleagues so they can watch their team in action,” he added. “Their appetite for the flexible working options we offer is good news for them and good news for our business.”

Sainsbury’s is also introducing ‘World Cup Working Hours’, allowing staff to book time off, swap days with colleagues, start or finish earlier, and time breaks to coincide with kick-offs. The scheme will also allow workers to take unpaid leave, make up lost time at a later date, and swap shifts with non-football fans.

While the scheme is open to all of Sainsbury’s 150,000 staff, not just England fans, the company expects the number of requests to rise dramatically if England progresses in the competition.

Rival supermarket chain Asda, which also employs 150,000 staff, has pledged to loosen its rules on flexible working during the World Cup in June and July to reduce the number of ‘sickies’ being recorded and to enable employees to take time off work to watch key matches.

An Asda spokesman said: “Stores will  be running shift swapping schemes, allowing extended breaks and fielding requests for odd days off so colleagues are able to watch certain matches. Televisions for sale on the shop floor will also be tuned in to the World Cup – so none of our colleagues and customers miss out on watching a piece of history.

“Our flexible approach has meant that during previous tournaments, such as Euro 2008 and the last World Cup in 2006, our stores saw absolutely no increase in absenteeism amongst its colleagues. We trust our colleagues who do work to get on with their jobs whilst keeping an eye on the score.”

Employment lawyers have warned businesses to remind staff of their race discrimination policies ahead of discussions that will take place about the tournament.