With the World Cup 2014 upon us, we have set out the actions that employers should be considering from an HR perspective to ensure that they are fully prepared for the employment law and practical implications of the football tournament.

Unauthorized absence policy

It is a well known issue for businesses that there is a greater tendency for people to "take sickies" around popular sporting events. Employers may wish to remind employees of the key components of their unauthorized absence policy.  Employers should also make it clear to employees that any unauthorized absence may lead to disciplinary action.

Employers who are particularly concerned, could, if their policy permits it, consider a temporary amendment such that for the duration of the World Cup, more stringent notification requirements apply, including a doctor's certificate or other medical evidence to cover any period of sickness absence.

As always, policies should be applied consistently throughout the business and in a non-discriminatory way.

Discrimination

Employees may come from a wide range of national backgrounds, and may support a number of different teams in the World Cup.  Consider making it clear to employees that inappropriate negative or derogatory comments about nations being supported by other employees may be discriminatory and/or amount to bullying and/or harassment, which will not be tolerated.

Computer use policy

Many matches will be available to stream and watch online.  If many employees are doing this independently at the same time, this may cause problems for computer systems, as well as inevitably reducing productivity.  Employers should review their computer use policy and communicate this to employees, making its position clear on whether employees are allowed to watch live streaming matches on their own computers.

If the view of the company's IT department is that live streaming will cause considerable problems, employers could consider blocking employee access to certain online sites for the period of the World Cup.  Screening popular events in communal areas may help to avoid this issue.

Recommended actions:

  • Remind managers about dealing with unauthorized absence, discrimination and computer misuse;
  • Review your computer use policy, including liaising with IT to understand the implications of live screening matches online, and consider blocking access to certain sites; and
  • Send an email to all staff regarding the above issues, which makes clear your expectations regarding appropriate levels of performance, behavior and attendance during the World Cup. This will help to ensure compliant behavior and provide a clearer basis for disciplinary action.