Monday, 7 June 2010

Is ‘World Cup Fever’ bad news for employers?

With the World Cup kicking off this Friday (11th), patriotic employers across the country will be experiencing mixed feelings. Firstly, there will be the irrepressible anticipating and hope that England will go the distance and be victors after a 44 year World Cup drought.

However, the other feeling will be that of concern as to whether your staff will turn up during England’s fixtures, particularly the next day after over zealous celebratory drinking and frivolities. Of course we all want something to celebrate about, but not at the price of costly staff absences.

So, the fundamental question has to be: what is the best approach to managing staff expectations and issues relating to staff absence during the tournament?

Well, a large number of employers may have already made provisions for staff to watch World Cup matches at work, as well as offering flexible working hours, shift swaps or unpaid leave. However, employers may want to consider allowing staff time out to watch games in the workplace by accommodating requests to watch online to moderate disruption.

One word of caution, however, employers must ensure that non-English staff are afforded the same flexibility to watch their national teams in order to avoid discrimination claims. Also consideration should also be given to retaining some football-free areas for those not caught up in the World Cup frenzy.

Rather than ignore the festivities, employers have the option to see the World Cup as an opportunity to boost staff morale. Many companies intend to turn the World Cup into a team building event, creating “World Cup Sweepstakes”, with any entry fees going to charity. This could be an extremely cost effective way of re-engaging de-motivated staff following the recent economic downturn.

Having a clear policy sets the boundaries in terms of how far the employer is prepared to be accommodating. Employees should be made aware of the disciplinary consequences of taking unauthorised time off work without good reason, or for not performing satisfactorily or misbehaving at work during the tournament.

Like most people, The Mayo Wynne Baxter team are looking forward to the World Cup and will be cheering on various teams as part of our charity sweepstake!

Ruby Dinsmore is an Employment Solicitor with Mayo Wynne Baxter LLP. For further information please contact 01273 223286 or email: rdinsmore@mayowynnebaxter.co.uk

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