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Even those who are not football fans will probably be aware that the Football World Cup competition starts in Russia on 14 June. ACAS have produced some guidance to assist employers in dealing with the issues that are always thrown up by tournaments of this kind.
The tournament goes on until 15 July. Matches will take place between 1pm and 8pm UK time. There is therefore potential for them to cause interference with normal patterns of work at workplaces throughout the UK.
ACAS emphasise the importance of trying to plan ahead to gauge the level of employee interest in the matches as a whole. Are there particular matches which will be particularly popular? To what extent can employees be permitted to take half or whole days as annual leave without causing harm to normal customer service and business functions?
ACAS encourage employers to try to adopt a flexible approach (even if it is just a short term measure). At the same time it may be appropriate to remind employees that unauthorised absence or taking excessive or abnormal amounts of sick leave or late attendance are likely to have disciplinary consequences.
ACAS recommend that employers consider adjusting working times, if possible, or agreeing that shifts can be swapped or that time-off to watch a match can be allowed on the basis that the time lost can be made up on another day. Break times may be extended to allow particular matches to be viewed, subject to the time being made up on another occasion.
If the employer allows some matches to be watched during what would normally be the working day, some employees may think that alcohol can be consumed at the workplace during the match. Most employers have strict policies prohibiting alcohol consumption at the workplace. Employees may need to be reminded of this.
It may be possible to allow some employees to take part of their holiday entitlement but there will inevitably be limits on the numbers who can be permitted to take leave at any one time. If the policy is to be one of first come first served, but subject to minimum staffing levels being maintained within each section of the business, this should be made clear.
Matches may generate a higher than normal use of social networking sites or sports news websites or official sporting pages on the internet. If the employer has a policy restricting personal use of an employer’s IT system for internet access or prohibiting the use of personal mobile phones during working hours, a reminder of this may need to be issued.
Whatever approach an employer adopts, consistency and fairness of treatment as between one employee and another are of key importance. With appropriate advance planning and some flexibility, it should be possible for the football enthusiasts in the workforce to enjoy the competition while maintaining normal business operations – irrespective of how their national team may perform!
For further guidance contact our Employment Team.