Managing Employees During The World Cup

The countdown to the World Cup in Brazil has begun which will officially begin on Thursday 12th June to Sunday 13th July 2014.  England’s first game is on the 14th June 2014. Oh yes, as they say on all such sporting occasions, “may the best team win” – which is of course the staff team in each and every office!


As is often the case, around the time of big international sporting events, this can often lead to a dip in productivity, a loss of focus by football fans, increased demands for time off and possibly absenteeism in the work place – when the “big matches” are on.  It would be in the interests of employers to “strike a happy balance” (if at all possible) with their staff at this time.


Obviously employers are under no obligation to give employees time off work to watch matches (unless holidays are booked of course), however some flexibility in the work place could improve morale and overall productiveness generally.  However employers should also ensure that all employees are aware of expectations and standards of behaviour during the World Cup.


Employers could take the World Cup as an opportunity to increase employee morale and engagement if this can be done easily to the work place environment.


ACAS has issued guidance on how to deal with issues that may arise out of spectating in the world cup (


There are a number of strategies to deal with the issues including:

  1. Requests for time off – be flexible


It may improve staff morale if it is possible to allow more flexibility in requests for leave and relaxing the rules for the amount of staff off at any one time, provided that the requests for leave are “balanced” against the needs of the business.


When considering requests for time off, employers should act fairly, consistently and follow their own procedures.


If for example more employees want time off than can be granted, employers should consider granting leave on a ‘first come first served’ basis or by using a rota system.


In brief, decisions should be based on non-discriminatory criteria. For example, preferring to give leave to those following a particular team, or to men, could lead to allegations of race and/or sex discrimination.


If employees do not have sufficient holiday, then unpaid leave or making up ‘lost’ hours could be another solution or allowing working from home on a match day for example ( where supportable).  Allowing flexible working where it is possible to do so and still meet the needs of the business is also worth considering.


Ensuring that there is a culture and policies in place that will encourage and support employees for requesting time off beforehand will assist in such situations.


This gives managers the ability to plan for that absence ahead of time and mitigate some of that productivity loss. For those businesses that already have an absence policy in place, it’s a good time to review it and remind employees what is expected of them and the disciplinary consequences of taking unauthorised leave.

  1. Watching in the Work Place – a special perk

If the work place allows and there are TV licences in place, some employers may consider allowing employees to watch the matches in a conference room, or on the radio or on the internet, during breaks, after work or in the background.


Employees should be made aware that any abuse of such a concession at work ( i.e. aggressive/ racist behaviour) or significant reduction in efficiency in the business would mean that the privilege is withdrawn or action being taken against the perpetrators of such behaviour.


Further emotions running high during a match could also lead to employee comments about another team’s nationality or the characteristics of its players, which may be offensive or racist.  Employees should, therefore, be warned of this and reminded about the organisation’s equal opportunities policy.


A lot of employers will have zero tolerance of drinking alcohol in the workplace unless it is an authorised work event.  Alcohol policies should, therefore, be reinforced and employees reminded of the rules on drinking alcohol, or being intoxicated, at work.


  1. Be Fair

An employer who is seen to be fair and consistent in the way that they treat their staff, is more likely to have and retain a more motivated and productive workforce especially in such times as the World Cup where a little flexibility and awareness that staff do have lives outside of work goes a long way to improve employee morale and could also increase employee engagement in the work place.


  • Be clear about what is expected from employees in terms of attendance and performance;
  • Start talking to staff early on about managing leave and working hours;
  • Be honest about how changes to working practices will be managed and give reasons if changes are not possible.
  • Be clear that drinking in the work place is unacceptable and will not be tolerated (now would be a good time to either review or update your polices with regards to standards and behaviour at work)



Often many work places get into the spirit of things, by having a sweep stake, picking teams to support, or allowing those who have finished their work early to leave so as to watch the game.


Remember the minority also – they are part of the team

Not all staff like football and might be annoyed at concessions given to football fans, particularly if they feel that they are left doing the lion’s share of the work.


Businesses need to be sensitive to the mood of non-football fans or they might face absence problems from the non-football fans in the team. Remember all staff need to be encouraged and incentivised in order to feel part of the team at work, not just football fans.

  1. Absenteeism

Employees who have been refused leave, or who do not believe leave will be granted, may not turn up for work, or call in sick. Similarly, employees who have been granted leave may call in sick while they are away from work, or when the leave period ends, particularly if they were not granted as much leave as they requested. Under current case law, employees may seek to re-categorise holiday as ‘sickness’ and reclaim the holiday entitlement.


Though such circumstances are likely to raise suspicions, employers should not jump to conclusions. They should carry out an investigation into any unauthorised absence before disciplinary action is considered.  A return to work interview or the requirement to produce medical evidence could act as a deterrent to abuse.  Employers should also review their sickness policies regarding procedures for sickness while on holiday.


If an employee turns up for work late or is believed to be under the influence of alcohol then the employer’s normal disciplinary procedures should be followed.

  1. Forward planning – makes life easier

It may be in the employer’s best interests not to plan to kick off any big, bold initiatives for a morning after a big sporting event, especially if it’s a late event. Instead, firms should do their research beforehand and pick a more suitable date.


It’s also worth bringing up the possibility of absences the week before or in advance generally, so that businesses can establish who might be planning a late night and may be coming in later the next day.



Employers will not want to spoil the atmosphere or damage morale by being inflexible. A more balanced and responsive approach is the preferred method, ideally speaking.  Equally, employers need to consider how they will approach abuse by reviewing current measures and policies, and consider whether special rules will apply. An advance briefing to all staff, or perhaps a handy ‘World Cup workplace guidance’ note, could show how employers want employees to enjoy the experience but also clarify expectations on how employees should behave.

If you require any assistance with your companies HR support needs,  a staff handbook, contracts, policies review or have any other employment law issue, please contact any member of the employment law team at or Sukhmani Bawa for a no obligation discussion