Paman Singh, employment solicitor at employment law, HR and health & safety specialists, Law At Work (LAW), reflects on a recent findings which estimate up to £13bn could be lost from UK businesses during the 2018 World Cup in Russia due to unauthorised staff absences, and advises on the practical steps employers can take to manage staff throughout the tournament.
Zdravstvuj! The countdown to the World Cup has officially started, and anticipation is growing amongst fans for the tournament in Russia. This year’s tournament is set to be bigger than ever, with the 2014 final attracting an enormous 1 billion viewers. But what does a month-long football festival mean for businesses?
After polling over 2,000 UK workers, a survey by FootballTips.com revealed the average number of unauthorised absences expected for each football fan could be as a high as four days. Using this figure, a median 7 hour working day, the UK’s average earnings per hour and viewing figures from the last World Cup the report estimates it could cost the UK’s economy up to £13bn.
If these figures are to be believed, and in the unlikely event England progress to the final stages, the UK economy – and Scotland – could conceivably combust.
In general, employees should enjoy coming to work and social events such as the World Cup can act as useful catalysts for team building when used in the right way. However, self-inflicted headaches for employees cause real ones for businesses across the country.
It is important to introduce steps to identify and manage these headaches before they escalate into larger problems that affect the firm and the individual – and we would advocate a common sense and compassionate approach. Here are six top tips for employers to help businesses operate as normal and avoid any concerns in the workplace during Russia 2018:
- Remind staff highly-anticipated holiday requests will be approved on a ‘first come first served’ basis. Remember, employers are not obliged to accept all holiday requests, especially if there is a business need to turn it down, in fact, businesses can also enforce a period of annual leave by giving double the notice of the proposed period of leave.
- This year, there will be some games that are played throughout the working day, so some employees may turn up late for work or not at all. From the tournament outset, remind staff of their duties and this should reduce lateness and unauthorised absences. Consider letting employees work from home and to work half days on occasion, subject to the needs of the business.
- Businesses need to be aware that some employees may still be under the influence of alcohol at work after a game. This raises not only a serious health and safety concern, but can also severely affect productivity. Employers could offer flexi-time during these periods or encourage those planning to watch the game to consider taking the following day off as annual leave.
- For big games, businesses can screen them at work with this time taken as unpaid, or worked back at another time. As all the matches will be streamed online this year, it is advisable to review certain policies in the Employee Handbook, including the Social Media Policy, the IT policy and the BYOD Policy. Employees shouldn’t use work social media accounts to rage against the injustices of a VAR for example!
- Some matches between nations are steeped in conflict and could incite rivalry between colleagues. If related to their own country of upbringing, exchanges could give rise to grievances and discrimination claims. Remind employees any such behaviour will not be tolerated.
- The World Cup is a perfect opportunity to improve client relations further and network. Businesses could consider taking clients and prospective clients out for one of the games, or hosting them at the office.
The World Cup is enjoyable event over which colleagues can bond and facilitate good working practices. The aim is not to over-police the event, but ensure the right level of consideration has been given to the appropriate behaviour in the workplace and to minimise disruption.
Although colourfully commenting on a referee’s ability, mimicking your favourite stars’ somersaulting celebrations or streaking with gleeful abandon may be acceptable in an employee’s personal life, such behaviour will not be tolerated at work – unless of course this is normal custom and practice in your workplace, in which case, you may wish to take some employment law advice sooner rather than later!