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Are you ready for kick off?

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It’s that time of year we have all been looking forward to (or have we?)  The 2018 World Cup in Russia sees 32 nations taking part in 63 matches from 14 June until 15 July.  As an employer you may assume you have little to worry about in terms of the effect on your workforce.  What about cover during evening shifts which clash with matches, and also dealing with the morning after some of the late night games?  During the 2010 World Cup, it was estimated by FIFA sponsors that around 9 million people in the UK would call in sick to avoid working on the same day as a match.

As an employer, you may be inundated with annual leave requests, increased internet usage or even banter during the workplace.  Where do you draw the line?  Whilst the World Cup could present some challenges for employers, if dealt with correctly, it can present a great opportunity to boost employee morale through greater flexibility, improved communication and managing productivity.

Here are some top tips for you to consider during the footie season:-

Flexible working

If you don’t have a flexible working policy, consider setting one up – even if it is for just the World Cup.

You could allow employees flexibility in their working hours e.g. by allowing them to leave work earlier to watch matches, and to make up time in the week.  This will, of course, require monitoring to ensure the time is made up as agreed.  If you have a workforce where there is a shift pattern, employers could introduce a temporary shift swap scheme.

Let’s not forget that not everyone will be supporting England, so ensure that any rules you have are not just limited to England matches and supporters, but also other nationalities.

How about those who request flexible working not connected to the World Cup?  Consider this in the same way as any other flexible working request and be fair.

Sickness absence and lateness

With some matches being shown on a weekend or during working hours, you may find an increase in staff calling in sick or just not coming into work at all.  Either way, don’t jump to conclusions and issue a warning without following a fair procedure.  Each period of absence should be investigated.

You need to make sure that you have a sickness absence policy which deals with how employees should report absences, self-certification, how unauthorised absence will be dealt with, sick pay, requirement to obtain a doctor’s note for sickness lasting more than 7 days, and most importantly a sickness absence meeting procedure.

Make sure your policy is up to date and communicated to staff.  Make it clear (in advance) that absences will be monitored and that any unauthorised absences could result in disciplinary proceedings.  If they are aware their absence will be investigated, they are less likely to call in sick unless their sickness is genuine.

Show it at work on a big screen

This is another option employers could consider although of course it may not be appropriate to offer this for a number of business reasons.

If you decide as a business to offer this, please have a policy in place that is shared and communicated with staff beforehand.  Make it clear that they are still in the workplace and swearing or aggressive (possibly racist) behaviour will not be tolerated.  Communicate how time should be made up if employees watch the game at work.  Again, be fair to those employees who are still working because they do not wish to watch the game.

This option may well help boost morale and therefore increase productivity at work.

Make sure you do a TV Licence as relevant.

Deal with all holiday requests fairly

As an employer, you may find a rise in annual leave requests during the World Cup.  Although there is no legal obligation to give employees time off for reasons associated with the World Cup, a ban on requests is likely to damage employee morale and instead be counter-productive.

Instead, treat all requests fairly whilst making sure the needs of the business are met at all times.

Use of social networking sites and websites

During the World Cup, there may be an increase in the use of social media or website usage.  Make sure you have a clear employment policy in place and that the employees are fully aware of the policy.  Internet should be monitored and employees should be aware of the consequences of breaching the policy.

Consider perhaps offering usage during lunch time only.

A chance to get together

Get involved in the World Cup spirit by offering staff a chance to decorate their desk.  You could turn this into a competition with a prize for the winning team or staff member.  Always bear in mind any health and safety risks such as hanging decorations which could be a trip hazard if they fall, standing on step ladders etc.  Have a health and safety policy in place and issue this to staff beforehand.

You could set up a World Cup themed office lunch by giving staff the opportunity to bring in food.

How about a sweep stake? You don’t have to be a World Cup fan to get involved in this.  This is likely to again boost staff morale in the workplace.

Overall, our advice is to plan ahead as an employer and make sure you have agreements in place such as time off, sickness absence or website usage during working hours.  Ensure these policies are communicated to all staff beforehand.  This will help keep staff “on side.”

Remember, not everyone is a football enthusiast so try and keep it fair for all staff.