Most World Cup matches are scheduled to take place outside normal business hours, with the earliest games starting at 5.00pm and the latest not kicking off until 2.00am. So while most employers will not have to worry about staff covertly watching football while they are supposed to be working, a number of other problems can present themselves.
Here, Langleys Solicitors of York, offer some ways to avoid having to issue red cards this summer:
1. Kick off with employee morale
Look at the tournament as an obvious opportunity to build team morale, particularly since the matches barely cross with ‘normal’ business hours. You might consider screening matches (provided you have a TV licence to do so). For example, the England match which kicks off at 5.00 pm on Tuesday 24 June will come for many employers at or towards the end of the working day. To ensure you do not have an influx of people leaving early, or risk employees driving home unsafely to catch the second half, why not consider offering refreshments? Indeed, you might also anticipate a great networking opportunity to hold an event for clients or customers – perhaps starting at 4.30pm for greeting and pre-match analysis. If you need your staff to keep working while the game is in progress you might consider allowing them to listen to a radio commentary or providing updates to employees by email or over the tannoy.
2. Score with shift-swaps
Many large employers, for example the supermarkets, already offer a ‘shift-swap’ scheme. If you don’t already, you might offer this to staff over June and July to accommodate those who want to watch the matches. If you intend it to be a temporary scheme for the World Cup, make this clear, and make clear that shift swaps should be cleared with a manager and must be agreed in advance by a manager or supervisor. You should also make clear that your scheme does not set a precedent for a future World Cup or other sporting events.
3. Don’t get caught offside with holiday requests
A lot can be said for flexibility at times like this, creating an open and honest atmosphere between employers and employees. Where possible, allow more flexibility when granting holiday requests. Make clear what your decision making process will be in granting leave, whether it will be first come first served, or that all requests received by a certain date will be picked out of a hat. Make the procedure clear, and stick to it.
4. Tackle sickness absences
Due to kick-off times, sickness absences on the days following the games might be a problem, especially for those working normal business hours. Given that most games will take place in the evening or late at night, and bearing in mind that an estimated 12 million pints of beer were sold in English pubs during the opening game of the last World Cup alone, the risks of sore head-related absences are obvious.
Alongside your flexibility with holiday requests, you may choose to be more flexible with working hours. You might allow all employees to start at 10.00am the day after a game, or leave at 4.00pm on the day of a 5.00pm kick off. This again helps to create a more flexible environment; promoting a culture of respect and requiring honesty in return.
If you do not already have a return to work policy, you may decide to introduce one before the World Cup starts. The policy might include a requirement for employees to provide medical evidence of temporary bouts of illness and might also specify that they will have to attend return to work meetings.
5. Challenge the fouling of policies
Alongside the support and flexibility you are showing leading up to the World Cup, it might be important to send a gentle reminder to be respectful towards colleagues of other nationalities. It may also be a good idea to draw workers’ attention to other relevant policies which might include internet use during working hours, being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace, sickness absences, equal opportunities and bullying. You may consider attaching the policies to your emails, or detailing where they can be found, to help bring them to the attention of your employees.
You should also warn that breach of these policies, or any significant disruption to the workplace would lead to any ‘World Cup privileges’ being withdrawn as well as the possibility of disciplinary action.
6. Extra time with a local community or charity of the year
What could be a better opportunity to arrange a sweepstake or a fantasy football team to raise money for a local sporting charity or your charity of the year with a prize for the winner? This might encourage those not particularly interested in football to get involved in the World Cup with support for a charity or the possibility of winning a prize.
7. Try to avoid the red card
Try not to view the World Cup as nothing more than a source of disruption. Be flexible, yet clear, with your rules. This is a unique and exciting time for all football fans, so join in the World Cup fever and score points with your employees.