Is your team onside with World Cup work etiquette?

Acas has advised employers and small businesses to plan ahead and have agreements in place that cover requests for time off, sickness absence, website use or watching TV during the World Cup, with England vs Croatia kicking off at 7pm tonight

Acas chairman, Sir Brendan Barber, said: ‘The World Cup is an exciting event for many football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.’

Continuing with his football theme, he said that new Acas guidance will help managers get the best from their team players, arrange appropriate substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

Top tips

All requests for leave should be considered fairly. As not everyone likes football, a consistent approach should be applied for leave requests for other major sporting events.

Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the company's policy. Watch out for high levels of sickness or late attendance due to post-match celebrations.

Consider a more flexible working day with employees arriving a little later or finishing sooner and making the time up by agreement. Any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should however be approved before the event and should be fair to all (not everyone will be supporting England).

Remind staff of any policies regarding the use of social networking and websites during working hours. The policies should be clear on what is and is not acceptable web use. Stifled cheering while supposedly working on a new resources spreadsheet probably falls into the latter category.

Watching the game in a pub before work is an employee’s prerogative but turning up to the office under the influence of alcohol may well be a disciplinary offence. It is worth reminding everyone of the organisation’s alcohol policy.

Some employers will choose to create a specific sporting events policy to manage staff during the World Cup. As suggested above, these policies will typically outline an organisation’s stance on a variety of issues including flexible working, internet usage, and general workplace conduct for the duration of the tournament.

Having a specific sporting events policy in place will help inform staff of any amendments to accepted working practices during the World Cup and provide employers with the framework required to discipline those who fail to comply. An added benefit of creating such a policy is that it can also be applied during similar events such as Wimbledon and the Olympic games.

Simply having a policy in place is however just the first step: for any policy to be truly successful it must be communicated effectively.

Any new policy created ahead of the World Cup should be provided to staff well in advance, allowing them sufficient opportunity to review its contents and consider the practical implications prior to the tournament’s kick-off.

Effective communication is equally important for those who choose to rely on pre-existing workplace polices to guide employee behaviour.

In these instances, employers should consider holding informal meetings with the wider workforce to reiterate what is expected of them during the tournament. This will also give them an opportunity to announce if there will be any relaxing of existing policies to better accommodate employees during the tournament.

Employers must also take care to ensure that the guidelines inscribed in workplace policies are enforced in a fair and consistent manner.

Sporting events policies will commonly cover rules surrounding annual leave as employees may want time off to watch their favourite team’s matches, and normal procedures should apply - being granted on a first come first served basis, for example.

Additionally, staff may be permitted to watch certain matches in between shifts and during designated break periods and line managers must be vigilant to ensure they do not take advantage of this privilege.

It is clear that implementing a sporting events policy will be useful in maintaining workplace productivity ahead of the World Cup, particularly for organisations who have struggled to manage employees’ performance in the past.

However, as well as simply creating the policy, employers must adequately inform staff of any new policies and make concerted efforts to enforce the policy’s guidelines in a consistent manner.

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