The World Cup kicks off in South Africa on 11 June 2010 and it is important for employers to be aware of the issues they may be confronted with during the tournament.
The competition will run from 11 June until 11 July 2010 and during this period employers may receive requests from employees to take time off to watch the televised games, whereas other employees may fail to seek approval and simply ring in sick, or take time off the following day to recover from a post-match hangover.
Employers need to make a decision: will business continue as usual, or will you allow a certain degree of flexibility. The easiest option for an employer is simply to insist on business as usual but this is likely to have a negative effect on staff morale.
If you are going to allow some flexibility during the World Cup you need to lay down some clear ground rules. This will need to be the case whether you allow employees to take time off as paid holiday, allow employees to take unpaid leave, allow employees to be flexible and watch games while making time up elsewhere, provide a television for employees at work, or simply insist on business as usual.
It is important that as an employer you treat staff fairly and consistently. Try to remember that not everyone supports England and there are 32 teams participating in the World Cup. It is important not to discriminate against employees from other nations and if you are allowing time off or flexibility to watch England games, you should do the same for other nations so employees from different nationalities can follow their teams. To ignore this advice could expose you to a risk of claims for discrimination. My advice is that while an employee is unlikely to bring a claim it is better to be sensitive to the possibility.
Inevitably, some employees will phone in sick to recover from a hangover or to watch a televised game. Others may simply not turn up at all. The best course of action is to be clear from the outset that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated and is likely to result in disciplinary action.
If by some miracle Capello manages to replicate Alf Ramsey and England progress to the final (extremely unlikely I know), the only game scheduled to kick off during normal working hours is the final group game against Slovenia on 23 June 2010. This game kicks off at 3 pm and is likely to be the game that causes the most disruption, if any, to your workforce. Communication is key, and failing to address the issue could see a late batch of requests for holiday which your business may or may not be able to cope with.
My advice is to communicate with all staff either via e-mail or in a meeting. As part of this communication you can set out your expectations for staff attendance during the World Cup and explain any flexibility or variations you will allow.
PS – If England do make it to the final, please do not call on 12 July 2010 the employment department will be off sick!