• Lee Calver
  • 16 June 2014

Don’t let World Cup fever damage your business

After an enthralling first weekend, World Cup fever is sky high. However, many employers will be dreading the following four weeks knowing that they are likely to see an increase in unauthorised absences, numerous sporadic holiday requests and quite possibly some employee activity during working time that is deemed inappropriate.

The World Cup takes place once every four years, and as such, football fans across the world tend to go a little delirious throughout the tournament – a whole month watching the greatest players in the world grace the biggest stage can cause supporters to suddenly forget about what is morally the right thing to do.

So, how are employers expected to cope during this period, and what is the best way they can get through the World Cup with as little disturbance as possible?

Unauthorised absences

A recent study found that 2.4 million employees would consider taking a sick day during the World Cup, while 4% of those surveyed stated they would even consider taking more than seven working days of unnecessary sick leave during the tournament.

This sort of absence will undoubtedly hinder productivity across the country and potentially cost the UK economy millions of pounds.

While employers cannot simply assume that sickness absence between now and 13 July isn’t genuine, clearly they will have their suspicions as to whether their employees are telling the truth.

Employers should carry out thorough investigations into any unauthorised absence and could consider conducting a return to work interview. Furthermore, employers may request to see a GP’s ‘fit note’ as to why they were absent, potentially frightening staff away from the idea of calling in sick.

Organisations should remember that any sickness policy will still apply during this period and that it should be operated fairly and consistently for all staff.

Workers should now have already been informed that sickness absence will be closely monitored throughout the World Cup, with employers warning staff that any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could lead to formal proceedings being undertaken. In addition, it is worth checking contracts or handbooks to see whether pay can be suspended for unauthorised absences.

Requests for annual leave

It is important that employers consider all leave requests fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner and also continue to use this approach for all other major sporting events when it comes to granting leave – the Commonwealth Games opens in Glasgow on 23 July!

It is more than likely that bosses will have to deal with a number of competing requests for annual leave and therefore may not be able to accommodate everyone’s requests. In instances where this occurs, approving annual leave requests on a ‘first come first served’ basis will be the preferred method for many organisations.

However, employers should, where possible, try to agree all requests for leave, perhaps relaxing rules on the amount of staff off at any one time if it is a feasible option.

This approach to holiday requests will ensure staff are fully motivated and engaged when they are at work having been allowed the time away from the office that they desire. In addition, this attitude is likely to discourage members of staff from taking ‘sickies’.

Unacceptable employee behaviour

Many companies now allow and even encourage the use of social media for business purposes, but there is a high possibility that there will be an increase in the use of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and any other websites offering coverage of the World Cup.

Remind employees of your policies regarding internet use in the workplace and if you do not include this in your current policy, you are advised to implement a web use policy that states what is and what isn’t considered acceptable in the workplace.

If employers decide to relax these policies during the World Cup in order to keep employees happy, it is still crucial to keep an eye out for excessive use. While you may want to keep staff cheerful and motivated, you must ensure that workers remain productive.

Further tips for success

  • Allow employees to listen to matches or watch them on a television provided by the organisation.
  • If you are in the position to, promote flexible working policies that should help prevent employee absenteeism and also give staff the chance to be at home for certain kick-off times – England’s third and final group game kicks off at 5pm on Tuesday 24 June.
  • If you can, allow employees to take unpaid leave – this is a better option than paying staff full pay when they are taking a ‘sick day’ in order to watch a game.
  • If feasible, allow employees to start work earlier / swap shifts so they can watch a match they wish to – this way, you are still getting a full day’s work out of your employee and they are getting to watch the game.


It is vital that your business still functions efficiently and that the World Cup causes you minimum disruption.

So talk to your staff and discuss the options available to them, and remember that being flexible will ensure your employees remain engaged and motivated.

Offering further words of advice, Workplace Law Head of HR, Suzanne McMinn, said:

“Policies and your approach to managing absence shouldn’t change during the World Cup; the best approach is to set your expectations and standards at the outset.

“Let employees know your position on things, whether this is allowing some flexibility around start times, or allowing more people off on leave.

“Once you have done this and set our clearly what is required regarding absences, then you simply follow your own policies in dealing with unauthorised or excessive periods of absence.”