With the World Cup kicking off in Brazil on 12 June, followed by other sporting events including Wimbledon later this month and the Commonwealth Games opening in Glasgow on 23 July it is time to dust off your handbook policies to ensure that your business continues to run smoothly during this period. Potential issues which may arise for employers stemming from staff keen to follow the action include unauthorised absence, a rise in ad hoc holiday requests and increased use of social media during working hours. And, if you take the fuse out of the TV plug for some games but not others, the risk of nationality discrimination may arise. We have actual experience of Anglo – French disputes about screen time!

Some golden rules:

  • provide clear guidance on how to book time off and operate the procedure fairly (first come first served, or a lottery?);
  • operate your sickness absence policy consistently and have in place a formal procedure to deal with unauthorised absence;
  • if appropriate, communicate the terms of any policy on the disciplinary consequences of drinking at work, or being under the influence of alcohol at work;
  • for key events consider providing access to TV at work for the duration of matches;
  • if events are streamed via social media ensure that employees are reminded of your social media, BYOD to work or IT policy concerning watching the games at work and the penalties for breach. Also check that a sudden surge in internet usage does not affect functionality and performance of your IT systems; and
  • ensure that, in accordance with data protection regulations, you inform all employees if you are monitoring their use of the internet during working hours.

How should HR prepare for the World Cup and other sporting events?

Employers should, wherever possible, be:

Flexible – for example, allowing employees to start earlier and finish earlier

Clear – about what is expected from employees

Communicative – by talking as early as possible about annual leave requests and working hours

Honest – about how changes to working practices should be managed, and explaining the reasons when this is not possible

Fair – about requests for time off.

Working together

The England World Cup matches are scheduled for evening viewing UK time, so the key here will be flexibility for those working during the matches. Although employers are under no legal obligation to accommodate employees' requests to watching the events, consider allowing staff to finish early or permit shift swaps. If you do so then ensure that this does not unfairly affect those employees with less interest in the sporting action so that all staff remain engaged and committed to the business.