The World Cup kicks off in just a few days and as always, excitement is mounting around the trying to predict the likely winner, who’ll get the golden boot, what will be the outcome of the inevitable penalty shoot-out, etc.

At work it can be great fun and create good talking points.  But wait… Not everyone likes football (do they?).  And the talking points from last night’s game can take over the morning after.

Sporting events can harness energy, enjoyment and plenty of banter.  That’s the up side.  But inevitably there’s a down side.  And that’s where it’s a good idea, as an employer, to be prepared.

There’s a difference between fans and fanatics.  And the latter can cause you major headaches.  But, if you start thinking through now what you can allow and what you can’t, and make sure that everyone knows clearly what they can and can’t do and how they should and shouldn’t behave, then there’s every chance that your team can enjoy the month and you won’t have any HR disasters.

Here’s our thoughts on the subject:

  1. Offer time off for work time matches on a first come first served basis. You know how many people you can afford to have off at any one time.  If there are arguments, try for compromise.  But if that doesn’t work, you’ll have to let staff know that you will be the final arbiter.
  2. And that leads on to sudden attacks of absence. Of course, if someone hasn’t been allowed time off and then goes off sick, there’s a very good chance that there’s nothing physically wrong, other than an inability to remove themselves from the TV.  Make it clear in advance than any such sudden absence is likely to be considered unauthorised and will be treated as such.  And the same goes for a phone call first thing in the morning related to the previous night’s match, where alcohol was probably involved.  Don’t be afraid to make it clear up front that you won’t view such behaviour kindly.

(If either of these situations should occur, do be sure that you follow your own absence policy, to avoid any discrimination)

  1. Would you consider having TV or a computer screen available for crucial games? If so, you’ll have to think about how to handle the time taken to watch for employees who aren’t interested in football.  How about flexi time, just on a one-off special occasion?
  2. If you have a formal dress code, are you going to allow red, white and blue during England games? This may be a step too far, especially where customers are involved.  But it could also show that you are an employer that can relax and enjoy the fun of the occasion.  Most important thing – make sure that your staff know (and if you have a multi-national workforce, are you going to allow everyone’s home shirts??)
  3. Hopefully you will have no cause to have to challenge any kind of xenophobic behaviour. But you can make it clear before the matches begin that words matter and whilst healthy banter can be beneficial, there’s a line where friendly rivalry becomes discriminatory.  If you point this out beforehand, and again refer to wanting everyone to enjoy the occasion, you should be able to avoid any kind of disciplinary activity.

Overall, your message should be positive.  Emphasize what is possible but make it clear where lines will be drawn. The more you can meet people halfway, the more they will appreciate your ethos on these one-off occasions.

This information is intended as a general overview and discussion of the subjects dealt with. The information provided here was accurate as of the day it was posted; however, the law may have changed since that date. This information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for taking legal, HR or benefits advice in any specific situation. Petaurum Solutions is not responsible for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this information. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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