With the World Cup almost upon us, ACAS’ new guidance is a reminder that the dream combination of Brazilian beaches, English participation (at least in the first round matches) and the beautiful game may still have a downside, at least for hard-pressed HR managers.

There is nothing about a major sporting event, even with a large and enthusiastic following, that should change the basic rules of engagement between employers and their workforce. No doubt employers are likely to face more applications for time off and flexible working, not to mention the risk of sore heads in the morning. But if things are handled correctly there is no reason why workplace morale or productivity should suffer.

Flexibility and imagination are likely to be needed to navigate a month of wall-to-wall football. All workplace environments are different, but here are a few quick pointers:

  • Study the schedule for the group and knock-out stages. Depending on the composition of your workforce, it may not be just the England fixtures that are likely to be popular.
  • Dust off your sickness absence and flexible working policies as well as any rules about the timing of annual leave. It may also be an idea to refresh any guidance you have about working under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Consider allowing staff to watch key matches at work on the basis that arrangements are made to make up the time later, or start or finish times adjusted. In this respect it is probably helpful that no matches kick off before 5pm, though there are some late starts in the group stages, notably England’s opener against Italy.
  • Don’t forget that not everyone likes football or assume that all football fans are male. Dealing even-handedly with football fans and football-phobes whatever their gender or nationality is likely to be key.

Sara Barrett