The World Cup 2014: Are you ready to take on the employment issues?

Year Published: 2014

In less than a month, 32 teams will begin their challenge for the World Cup title in Brazil. With England’s first match taking place on 14 June, now is the time for you to start considering the possible effects this month-long sporting event could have on you as an employer.

Annual leave requests

Due to the time difference between the UK and Brazil, most matches are scheduled to be played late afternoon / evening UK time. It’s still foreseeable however that some employees will request annual leave on or after a match day.

These holiday requests should be dealt with the same way as they are at any other time of the year i.e. reasonably, consistently and in accordance with your own annual leave procedures. If you can’t accommodate every request, the easiest option will be to grant leave on a ‘first come first served’ basis. You need to ensure that any decision about annual leave is not made based on discriminatory criteria i.e. giving time off to just England supporters or just to your male employees, which could get you into deep water with a tribunal if this was the case.

Making an announcement to your employees communicating to those wishing to take annual leave and encouraging them to do so in advance, should be done now and will allow you to plan cover in the usual way.

If employees do not have sufficient holiday entitlement, then unpaid leave could be an option, or alternatively you may agree to allow employees to work flexibly i.e. to leave early / come in later and make up their hours within a defined period of time.

We would advise any agreement with your employees along these lines, particularly in relation to unpaid leave, is at the very least recorded in an email.

Absenteeism / lateness

Statistics taken from past tournaments indicate that incidents of one-off sickness absences increase dramatically during the tournament.

Statistics in mind, these incidents of absences (especially where an earlier annual leave request has been declined) may lead you to jump to the wrong conclusions. It’s therefore important to properly investigate any period of absence before deciding on disciplinary action. This can be done by way of a thorough return to work interview with the employee.

It is also possible that in some cases there may be issues with lateness, or with employees turning up tired or hungover for work. Again these incidents should be investigated and dealt with under the disciplinary process if appropriate.

An opportunity to boost moral

Despite the above, the world cup need not be viewed as disruptive. There are many ways to take advantage of the tournament to boost staff morale and embracing the tournament is actually likely to reduce the chances of employees pulling ‘sickies’ or turning up late for work.

You may decide to run an all staff sweepstake, or host a showing of some of the matches for staff at the offices if you have the facility and a license to do this.

If you are going to host showings of some of the matches, employees should be reminded that aggressive or racist behaviour will not under any circumstances be tolerated and will be dealt with in accordance with your disciplinary policy.

A final thought

Highlighting to employees in advance of the tournament that you are keen for them to enjoy the experience will set the tone. You should clarify however, that you will be expecting a certain standard of behaviour and that you trust employees will cooperate with you to ensure the tournament is an enjoyable experience for the whole workforce.

For further information throughout the tournament on any employment related issues, please contact our Employment Law and HR team on 0161 475 7676.

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