Avoiding workplace own goals during the World Cup
09 June 2010
With the World Cup now well under way, are you experiencing an increase in absences and disruption to your business caused by employees watching games and coming into work rather the worse for wear? Have you considered ways in which you can minimise the disruption to your business while maintaining morale?
This is our short guide to avoiding some of the pitfalls:
• Honestly, I am working
With many websites giving minute-to-minute live feeds of games, employees should be given clear guidelines as to what is, and what is not, going to be permitted. Some employees may spend considerable periods of time during working hours following games and you will need to decide how you are going to deal with this and communicate this to staff.
• Flexible formations
There is no obligation on an employer to allow employees time off to watch a game during normal working hours.
However, many employers are considering ways they can minimise the disruption to their business, whilst maintaining morale, by allowing some flexibility to enable employees to watch key games. For example, you could show key games in your office or allow employees to watch them out of the office - subject of course to customer or operational requirements – and make up the time later.
If you decide to allow any changes to normal working arrangements during the World Cup, you should ensure that equal consideration is given to requests from supporters of national teams other than England (to avoid issues of indirect discrimination – see below). It may be a good idea to remind managers of your equal opportunities policy and point out to employees that any changes to working arrangements are entirely at the discretion of the employer and will not set a precedent for future years or events.
• Footballing hangovers
Some employees may pull sickies either to watch games or as a result of hangovers following late night celebrations. You should ensure that your absence management and disciplinary procedures are up to date. You may wish to remind employees that your usual policies on absence and misuse of alcohol will apply, and that a breach of them could result in disciplinary action.
• Come on you Engerland!
Banning national flags in the workplace, but allowing the St George's cross from newspaper promotions or screening certain matches for the benefit of the workforce, could constitute indirect discrimination on the grounds of nationality or race. You should therefore consider the diversity of your workforce and the possible discriminatory impact of any decisions or policies that you put into place.
• Maradona and the Hand of God
Given the passion that surrounds the World Cup, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario similar to the Hand of God incident involving Maradona and the strength of feeling that that incident generated between English and Argentine fans. Keep an eye out for potential friction and deal with tensions which arise from incidents on the football pitch before they give rise to serious incidents in the workplace.
• The post-work punch-up
With many games taking place in the evening, groups of employees may finish work and watch the matches in a local pub. As an employer, you could be vicariously liable for a dispute between employees if it involves bullying or harassment. Therefore, it may be worth reminding employees of your harassment, bullying and equal opportunities policies or sending an email to all staff reminding them of the behaviour expected of them during the World Cup.
A great deal of goodwill can be generated during the World Cup by allowing flexibility in the workplace. The key to minimising wasted working time and incidents that may give rise to grievances or disputes is preparation and communication - consider what issues may arise and the policies you wish to put in place, and communicate those policies to staff.