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The World Cup - an employer's guide

Updated: Feb 16

The World Cup is a major sporting fixture and draws a great amount of interest all over the world. Many employees will want to enjoy the sporting action but what does this mean for employers while the tournament is on?

The main issues which will affect employers include:

  • Requests for annual leave

  • Sickness absence

  • Website use during working hours

Overall, flexibility from both employers and employees throughout the tournament period is key to a productive business and engaged workforce.

Before the start of the World Cup (or any major sporting event), it would be best to have agreements in place regarding such issues as time off, sickness absence or even watching TV during these events.

By working together, both employers and employees will understand the needs of each party.

However, in challenging times, a more flexible approach (e.g. to working hours, annual leave) may not always be possible as the employer will need to maintain a certain working level.

Annual leave

A company’s annual leave policy should give guidance as to how to book time off. Employers may wish to look at being more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period, with the understanding that this will be a temporary arrangement. Special arrangements may not always be possible and are not a legal requirement.

All leave requests should be considered fairly by an employer, and a consistent approach to other major sporting events should be taken when granting leave. Remember not everyone likes football but they may like other sports.

Sickness absence

A company’s sickness policy will still apply during this time and this policy should be operated fairly and consistently for all staff. Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the company’s attendance policy.

Any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could result in following the internal disciplinary policy. This could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness or late attendance due to post-match hangovers.


One option that may be agreeable would be to have a more flexible working day, when employees may come in a little later or finish sooner, and then agree when this time can be made up.

Employers may look to allow staff to swap shifts with the manager’s permission or allow staff to take a break during match times. Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV may be another possible option.

It is important to be fair and consistent with all staff if you allow additional benefits during the World Cup. Any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved before the event.

Use of social networking sites and websites

There may be an increase in the use of social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, or news websites such as BBC Sport or Sky Sports news covering the tournament. Employers should have a clear policy regarding web use in the workplace and the policy should be cascaded to all employees. If an employer is monitoring internet usage, then the data protection regulations require them to make it clear that it is happening to all employees. A web use policy should make clear what is and what is not acceptable usage.

Drinking or being under the influence at work

Some people may like to participate in a drink or two (or more) while watching the matches or even may go to the pub to watch a match live.

It is important to remember that anyone caught drinking at work or found to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures which may result in Gross Misconduct Dismissal. There may be a clear ‘no alcohol’ policy at work and employees may need a reminder.

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