Employers need to tackle team approach before the ref blows the whistle

With World Cup football fever taking grip, fans across the country are cheering on the England team.

But for UK business, many employers may be secretly hoping for an early knock-out for the home team, when faced with the potential of lost working hours due to employees staying home to watch the games.

It’s not too late to tackle the challenge, according to experts, who say that being clear what’s acceptable can avoid confusion and disagreement with staff, by setting out the ground rules now and looking at ways to encourage staff to turn up for work.

For example, sickness absence must be monitored and the formal procedure for any unauthorised absence carefully followed.  Any ‘under the influence’ alcohol policies should be rigorously enforced.  And there needs to be a clear policy on watching games during working hours, whether on company computers or employee’s own equipment, together with a reminder of company policy regarding personal use of internet during working hours.  If companies don’t have policies for any of these areas, now is the time to get them sorted.

It’s also worth considering other options, such as allowing staff to work from home for part of the day, taking only part of a day’s holiday, if they are prepared to log on and catch up before or after the game.  Another option may be to have screens set up at work, or agree that staff can keep up with the game online, but whatever is offered, it’s best to avoid setting a precedent that staff may point to for any future major events such as Wimbledon or the Grand National, unless that sort of flexibility is intended.

Said Mark Cornish employment expert with  Grant Saw solicitors : “Whatever is decided upon, it’s important to remind employees of the terms of the employment contract and to be clear about what’s acceptable, what’s not and avoid having any attitude that appears to favour the football fans over those who are not interested, or even favouring home-team fans over the opposition.

“It’s all about being fair and consistent, so avoid using the red card with one employee when someone else has been given the nod for similar behaviour.   If you’re a football fan and let staff get away with arriving late after an England game, but then you won’t allow someone else time off to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon next month, you’re setting yourself up for a difficult match.”


This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.