Managing Rowdy Employees During the World Cup

By Matthew Reymes Cole
28 Jun 2018

The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup is just around the corner, and there is a twinkle of tentative optimism in everyone’s eye. It’s hard not to get caught up in World Cup mania, but some people can take it too far. As an employer, how are you going to tackle those world-cup crazed employees?

Are you going to give free rein to watch every single game? Or do you go on the defensive, and try to block any mention of football?

Somewhere between the two extremes lies the correct strategy, where you balance the needs of your business and the happiness of your staff. The best way to put this strategy into action is by creating a sporting event policy.

This policy should remind your employees of your existing rules and regulations, while also outlining any exceptions you might be making for the tournament. You can then use this policy during any other sporting event, such as the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics.

The three areas your sporting event policy could cover are as follows:

Using Flexible Hours to Your Advantage

The tournament kicks off on the 14th of June; however, England aren’t in action until four days later. The first 3 England group stage matches are:

  • Monday 18th June at 19:00: England vs Tunisia
  • Sunday 24th June at 13:00: England vs Panama
  • Thursday 28th June at 19:00: England vs Belgium

Luckily, for those of us who operate on a Monday-to-Friday, 9-5 schedule, none of the England games take place during office hours, meaning there is no chance of missing a game due to work.

Even so, some employees may want to watch non-England matches. This could be due to the fact you employ foreign workers, your employees have a sweep stake and want to cheer on another country, or they just love the world-cup that much they don’t want to miss a single game.

For these employees, you could allow them to leave a bit early to catch the game as long as they make up the hours, for example, by coming in earlier on the day. If employees are asking if they can take a whole afternoon off to watch a game it might be worth considering relaxing any restrictions you have on last-minute holiday requests.

And remember, if you have too many employees asking for time off, you’re within your rights to turn down requests for leave, especially if you think your business will struggle to cope. Your sporting event policy should also explicitly outline the consequences of watching a match instead of doing work, or pulling a sickie to watch a game.

Watching the World Cup in the Workplace

It’s never been easier to watch football, whether that is at home, on the go, or at work. If you allow staff to watch games on their own devices, they’ll likely be very happy and certainly be less tempted to call in sick.

But on the other hand, you’ll be opening the door to distractions, not only the game itself, but live updates via Facebook and Twitter. If you have the appropriate licence, installing a TV and showing matches in your communal area is a great way to counter this.

If the game is on in the background, employees won’t feel the need to look at their phones. Also, if the match is playing in a communal, open area, then it is easier for you to notice if staff are taking advantage.

Employee Conduct

Notoriously, football has been known to bring out the worst in some people. It’s unlikely your staff will misbehave in the workplace, but make it clear to them that you won’t tolerate hostile, xenophobic or loutish behaviour directed at employees or customers who support different teams.

This is especially relevant to the world cup, as any comments made against a person’s team can carry with it racial and cultural significance.

Another issue you may need to consider is if some of your workers watch the evening games at a pub or bar, they may take drinking too far. You may need to remind them to drink in moderation and not to turn up to work drunk or severely hungover.

Don’t be a Kill Joy

Most employers will want to celebrate the World Cup as a positive event and allow employees to view games in some way if they wish to. Many might choose to hold social events around games or launch World Cup-themed incentives.

However, if handled incorrectly, this can give rise to risks around discrimination (“why can’t I watch my team?”) or general fairness (“why doesn’t this apply to Wimbledon?”). Following some simple guidelines and taking advice when necessary will minimise these risks.

Done correctly, an international sporting event can be a great way to bring people together and to create a fun workplace atmosphere for all employees. If you want to go all out, you can:

  • Put flags up in the office, make sure to include any country represented by your workforce.
  • Relax your dress code and allow staff to wear football shirts.
  • Organise a sweepstake—employees pay a certain amount and are assigned random teams. The employee whose randomly allocated team wins the World Cup... wins the prize fund.

Treat your employees like adults. If they're respectful in turn, you should have no trouble surviving until the final on 15th July, even if England don’t.

Expert Support

For help with any of the issues raised above, please contact an expert at Croner on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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