The 2018 World Cup will kick off in Russia this week, with games scheduled between 14 June 2018 and 15 July 2018. The timing of matches will vary throughout the tournament. However, most games will fall between 1pm and 8pm meaning that some England games may coincide with the working hours of some employees.

So, what can employers do to minimise the risk of “World Cup fever” and maintain productivity in the work place?

Ahead of the summer’s festivities, employers may wish to consider introducing policies or agreements setting out the organisation’s stance on issues such as flexible working, annual leave and sickness absence during the World Cup period.

Increased flexibility

One way to deal with these potential issues is to introduce a temporary flexible working policy. Similarly, organisations with existing policies on flexible working may wish to temporarily extend these measures over the World Cup season.

For example, some employers may decide to allow their employees to finish a little earlier or to come into work a little later on a match day, before reaching an agreement as to when the time can be made up.

A further option is to permit employees to listen to matches on a radio in the office, or alternatively, arrange for the matches to be shown on television. This arrangement could boost staff morale and also reduce the risk of unauthorised absence.

However, employers should make their employees aware of the need to maintain a certain working level and that flexibility may not always be possible.

Annual leave

Some employees may wish to travel to Russia to attend a match in person; others may have arranged plans closer to home. However, employers should expect to see an increase in requests for annual leave during the World Cup.

As per ACAS recommendations, employers should adopt a fair and consistent approach when dealing with holiday requests. Where multiple requests fall on the same date it is best practice to deal with these requests on a first come first served basis.

Employers may also wish to allow employees to switch shifts with their colleagues during the World Cup.

Sickness absence

Employers may see an increase in the number of employees calling in sick during the World Cup. Businesses should remind their employees of their sickness policy and monitor any unauthorised attendance as usual. Employees should be reminded that high levels of absence or an unauthorised absence could result in disciplinary proceedings.

This said, it is also important that employers operate policies fairly and consistently for all employees and do not automatically assume that an absence over the World Cup period is disingenuous.

Social media and internet use

Employees may wish to monitor social media or other internet pages during the World Cup in order to check match results.

Employers may decide to relax the rules on personal internet use during working hours for the duration of the World Cup. However, organisations should remind employees of their social media and network policies, watching out for excessive or unreasonable use.

Drinking or being under the influence at work

Employers may wish to put guidelines in place to explain what will be acceptable regarding alcohol in the work place, for example a no alcohol policy.

Employees should also be reminded that coming into work under the influence of alcohol or drinking in working hours could lead to disciplinary action.

Potential discriminatory claims

Employers are also urged to be mindful of employees who may not be supporting England. To avoid any discrimination between employees, it is important to treat those supporting other countries in the same way as those supporting England. Similarly, World Cup policies should not have an adverse effect on those who do not follow football.

If you require any assistance with any of the above, please contact Farleys Employment Law & HR team on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.