Avoid Workplace World Cup Penalties

Booking Time Off For The World Cup


I formed my World Cup strategy some time ago, coordinating my diary and tournament wall planner. This involved negotiations at home to agree terms, such as a meal in a restaurant in exchange for a night in front of the TV with my England shirt on.

Negotiations are likely to have begun in workplaces across the country too as employees seek time off to watch the tournament and employers study rotas so they can continue to operate effectively.

This might appear straightforward as many matches have evening or weekend kick-offs, but we should not forget that many organisations - such as factories, the emergency services, restaurants, hotels and the bars where we many supporters will be watching the matches - work shifts and weekends.

Any and all employers receiving requests should check their published policies and procedures. They should also ensure fairness - we live in a diverse nation and employers must neither discriminate against fans of other nations nor workers uninterested in football.

A request for time off should be regarded as a holiday request, and dealt with accordingly, but there are likely to be a number of requests for the same time period. Bosses could give permission to employees offering the most notice or, if there is no formal holiday policy, seek notice at least double the length of time requested, in line with the Working Time Regulations.

Managers may also agree to flexible working requests or suggest shift swaps so that employees who are not supporters stand in for their colleagues who return the favour later.

Staff who feel they are making little headway in discussions may resort to requesting unpaid leave or go off sick.  The former leaves the employer in control, as permission will only be granted if it fits business needs. Illness is more challenging, however, as bosses will need to tackle the thorny issue of whether it was genuine or feigned and act accordingly.

Strategies such as setting up screens in the workplace may offer an appropriate solution, but these should not distract workers from the safe and effective performance of their duties. Bosses must ensure that personnel abide by alcohol-related policies and do not regard the World Cup as justification for arriving at work while under the influence of alcohol.

During negotiations, employees might do well to remember that their employers may want to watch the tournament too.  The World Cup offers an opportunity for all tiers of a company to bond, particularly as we have been through a recession and tough times still lie ahead.  I hope that the end result is a win for England’s footballers and a win for happy employer-employee relations.

Fergal Dowling, Irwin Mitchell