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Leon Deakin

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Employment law issues during the World Cup – playing the odds


The World Cup will bring with it a lot of management concerns, and not just for Capello. Absences, form, motivation and even dreaded yellow cards adding up to a suspension are all likely contenders this summer, and in order to help you make the most of the beautiful game we’re running a book to give you the real World Cup odds.

Improving your odds – qualification and training
Qualification is the first stage towards any big tournament. For our purposes, this means adequate policies and procedures should be in place to deal with staff absences. Hopefully these are already implemented and you can start to think about some pre-tournament training. If not, check them now and ensure they are robust enough for the gruelling task ahead.

Once you are ready for pre-tournament training this is unlikely to involve a trip to the Austrian Alps and will instead probably consist of advising/reminding employees of their requirement to be at work and the consequences of unauthorised absences. It is a good idea to let employees know that particular scrutiny will be paid to absences during the World Cup period. As part of this, if you can, agree some form of compromise that might be easier to manage than unexpected last minute absences. For example, some employer’s allow staff to start early and leave early or lay on TV screens in meeting rooms.

After this you are ready to face the big guns!

Brazil (staff attendance) – biggest threat – evens
The perennial contender, staff absence is our clear favourite for number one problem during the World Cup this year. You may wish to encourage staff to take holidays on any key match days or to allow flexible hours so that time taken off for games is made up at other times.

However, with the majority of England’s games taking place in the evening, staff absences may not be such an issue as in previous tournaments. So perhaps staff absence should be more likened to France, a strong performer last time around, but not expected to be such a threat in this tournament? If absence is a problem it should be addressed in the usual way under your policies and as part of this return to work interviews and disciplinary measures if necessary may blunt the attack.

Spain (staff productivity) – maybe this year? – 2/1
Coming in as a close second favourite, productivity is a big concern for employers during the World Cup. Staff who are hung-over at work, or are following match updates on the internet, are unlikely to be performing at their optimum capacity. With more England matches taking place in the evening, hung-over employees could be a more common occurrence than in the past, so, like Spain, this could be their year. 

To counter this, you may decide to embrace the World Cup as an opportunity to build staff morale. Simple efforts such a TV in a meeting room, relaxing strict internet policies, or an outing to watch a game will be appreciated by staff and could lead to improved output overall. If the worst does happen again this will need to be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.

North Korea – outsiders but could cause an upset or two – 50/1

The World Cup is difficult to predict, and so are the multitude of staff issues that may arise as a result of it. For example, passionate football debates among staff could lead to unreasonable behaviour or even violence. Given the international element of the competition, this could constitute discrimination on the grounds of race or nationality depending on the circumstances. 

Your policies and procedures should be very clear on this issue and staff should be aware that any disciplinary matters will be dealt with in the usual manner. Employees should know who to report incidents to and then these should be addressed swiftly as a grievance. If disciplinary action is appropriate it should be consistent and reasonable.

England – optimism needed, but success is possible – 3/1

Although the issues outlined above may cause you some concern, don’t underestimate the positive aspects of the World Cup. Barring a quarter-final defeat to Germany on penalties, the impact of the World Cup on staff morale should be positive. If you embrace it and make efforts to share England’s success with your staff, they will associate this positive feeling with their workplace. The economy appears to be heading towards recovery and so you could use the World Cup as an opportunity to relegate any lingering feelings of staff discontent to the subs bench. 

Leon Deakin and Andrew Crudge are from Thomas Eggar LLP

3 Responses

  1. World Cup Guidance

    We need to remember that we work in companies that employ many different nationalities.  so don’t forget to consider applying the freedoms or restrictions equally across the French, Italian, Brazilian, Kiwi etc contingent in the workforce!

  2. World Cup Absences

    With regard to the comment regarding providing a TV set in a meeting room.  Do ensure you have a valid TV licence for the premises that the set is located.

  3. World Cup Guidance

    Is there a need for separate guidance for Scotland – centring on the need to protect the English minority in Scotland (who may have a tendency for triumphalism in these matters) from harassment from resentful Scots ?