Football with flag of brazil

With the start of the World Cup imminent, have you planned how you are going to manage employee relations during the competition?

The World Cup is being held in Brazil between Thursday, 12 June and Sunday, 13 July 2014, with the England matches scheduled on the following dates:

Saturday 14 June – England v Italy – 11pm

Thursday 19 June – Uruguay v England – 8pm

Tuesday 24 June – Costa Rico v England – 5pm

Depending upon England’s successes, further games may also be played.  In addition, whilst England is the only UK country to qualify, it is likely that football fans will want to watch many more of the matches throughout the competition.

Questions employers should consider:

1. What should I do if employees start making requests for annual leave, or flexibility to leave work earlier than normal?

Your holiday policy should set out the process for employees to book holiday.  If you so choose, you may be more flexible in considering and approving holiday requests (for example by allowing more employees to be off at the same time, or allowing bookings to be made on shorter notice), but on the understanding that this is only for the duration of the World Cup.  On a practical level, it is important to communicate to employees that you will be taking this approach on a temporary basis, but also reiterating that not all requests will necessarily be agreed to and that whilst additional flexibility will be given, the business needs must still come first.

2. What happens if employees take an increased level of sickness absence (whether as a means of securing time off work, or due to the after effects of celebrations)?

Again, your sickness absence policy should set out the procedures that employees should follow if they are unable to attend work due to illness.  Absences should be monitored throughout the duration of the World Cup and any high levels of absence or suspicious patterns of absences/late attendance may be addressed with employees under the disciplinary policy.  Notifying employees in advance that monitoring will be taking place may help to avoid such issues arising.

3. How can I prevent an increase in social media and website use during office hours?

It is likely that there will be an increased use of social media and of websites covering the World Cup by employees.  Your policy regarding Internet use during working hours and/or your social media policy should set out the standards expected of employees.  You may chose to more closely monitor employees’ activities during the World Cup, particularly their use of IT during the working day; however once again, communicating your expectations to employees may help to avoid issues arising.

Our recommendations

  1. Think about how you expect the World Cup to impact upon your business, and what expectations or hopes your employees may have to watch matches;
  2. Having pre-empted the issues you expect to arise, how do you plan to approach these.  For example, can you offer flexibility to employees to allow them to leave slightly earlier to watch the 5pm kick off? In return do you expect them to start earlier, or make the time up on another date?
  3. Review your policies to see whether they clearly address the issues?
  4. Consider those employees who may not want to watch the World Cup, who may need to be incentivised or encouraged particularly if their colleagues are benefitting from a degree of flexibility;
  5. Communicate clearly with employees setting what you are or are not able/willing to accommodate, and what your expectations are of them (and the consequences of them not meeting your expectations).

ACAS has also recently published guidance for employers in planning for the World Cup, which promotes employers and employees working together to achieve minimum disruption to the business whilst affording employees the flexibility to enjoy the competition.

This post was edited by Elaine Huttley. For more information, email

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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.