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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.
June 14, 2018

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World Cup

How to manage the World Cup in your workplace

Love it or loathe it, the 2018 FIFA World Cup is upon us and in the immortal words of Des Lynam, shouldn’t you be at work?

The 64-match football tournament kicks off later today (14 June) with hosts Russia playing Saudi Arabia, although for many football fans, the real action will start when England take on Tunisia for their first tournament match next week (18 June).

Because of the time difference between the UK and Russia, the majority of World Cup times will take place during normal office hours.

And while many football fans will book the time off work, some might be tempted to “throw a sickie” or take unauthorised absences to try to keep up with all the action.

In order to avoid wholesale disruption over the next four weeks, the Trades Union Congress has urged employers to talk to their staff in advance about arrangements for key games, and where possible either allow them to watch the game on the company’s premises, work from home or work more flexibly during the event.

“The World Cup is a landmark sporting event,” says TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady. “Millions of workers around the UK will want to cheer on their national teams.

“It’s important employers do not score an own goal by acting like killjoys. To avoid problems they should try and let people who want to watch the games do so, either at work or at home – and then claim back their time afterwards,” adds O’Grady.

“Whether it’s major sporting events like the World Cup or watching your kids take part in their school sports day, allowing people more flexibility in how and when they do their work makes them happier and more productive.”

Plan ahead

The recruitment company Robert Half UK also urged companies to plan ahead and incorporate the World Cup into office life, particularly as it could help boost staff morale.

“With the last World Cup final being watched by roughly 20 million people across the UK, employers simply cannot ignore it,” says Robert Half UK’s Managing Director, Matt Weston.

“World Cup fever will sweep the nation at various points this summer. It’s the employers who plan ahead and incorporate the event into their staff morale and engagement initiatives that will reap the benefits.

“This could mean providing facilities for employees to watch games together, encouraging staff to wear their football shirts on a casual Friday or allowing a late start after big games. Whatever businesses choose to do, the World Cup is a rare opportunity to create a positive atmosphere that is mutually beneficial for both businesses and their employees,” adds Mr Weston.

Phil Pepper, an employment partner at the law firm Shakespeare Martineau adds that while employers are certainly not obliged to allow employees time off to attend the World Cup or watch matches, a blank refusal may be counterproductive.

“The tournament may provide an opportunity to increase employee engagement and productivity by allowing staff to watch or listen to matches whilst at work,” adds Mr Pepper.

“When considering how to manage requests from employees, it is important for employers to find the best option to suit their business. This could include, for example, annual leave, unpaid leave, shift swaps or flexible working. By advising the workforce of the chosen approach at an early stage, businesses can avoid any potential negative impact on employees’ time and productivity levels.

“When looking to accommodate the wishes of employees around the World Cup, it is important that businesses do not put themselves at risk of discrimination claims. As such, they should ensure that policies around watching matches in the workplace or leaving work early do not apply only to England supporters, but to all teams and matches.

“Where an employer suspects a worker of abusing their sickness policy by staying off work to watch a match, they should deal with the matter through their usual disciplinary procedures,” Mr Pepper tells SHP Online.

“It should be made clear to staff in advance that a doctor’s fit note or self-certification form will be required for absences lasting longer than seven consecutive – including non-working – days. In many cases, a return to work interview will be carried out on the employee’s return.

“By setting out clear and fair policies around the World Cup and communicating these to workers in good time, businesses can make sure everyone can enjoy the tournament as they wish, whilst providing a valuable boost to employee morale.”

Culturally diverse

And the human resources and payroll supplier MHR has warned firms not to discriminate against employees supporting countries other than England during the World Cup.

“The UK’s culturally diverse workforce means not everyone will be interested in the same matches, so organisations need to be mindful not to discriminate against employees based on nationality and ensure any special arrangements you are considering for the tournament are inclusive to all employees regardless of which national team they are supporting,” says MHR’s HR expert, Emma Bullen.

“If you are permitting employees to watch the England matches, then it’s only fair that fans of other countries can watch their games too.

“The World Cup provides a great opportunity for organisations to promote a positive culture, build team morale and drive employee engagement. Introducing a temporary sporting policy which clearly communicates what is expected of employees is key to ensuring the World Cup is enjoyable and passes smoothly with minimal disruption to productivity and no complaints,” adds Bullen.

And for anyone wishing to avoid the World Cup completely, the hotel chain Best Western has released a Google Chrome extension, which will block all online mentions of the event.

“Our new Google Chrome extension helps people live out their normal digital lives without the constant onslaught of football-related posts and stories, encouraging them to explore more of what the country has to offer during the summer months,” said a Best Western spokesman.

The run up to this year’s World Cup has not been without its fair share of controversy and no matter how long England remain in the tournament, hopefully it will be a harmonious event, both on the pitch and in your place of work.

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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