World Cup Fever in the Workplace & How to Handle it

Can I support England at work and watch the World cup?

There is nothing in employment law that allows an employee to watch any major sporting event while they are working.

What are the options for an employee, if the employer or the nature of work does not allow for viewing?

  • Take annual leave or holidays
  • File a flexible working request (but this kind of request can only be made once a year, and anyway is not really designed for one-off events like a World Cup or Olympics
  • Does your employer operate TOIL or Banked Hours?

Many employers are uneasy that major sporting events will lead to more absences from work. The failure to turn up for shifts or “the morning after the night before” syndrome comes to mind.

Planning to allow staff to watch an occasion like the World Cup would greatly reduce this risk and give you more certainty about getting work done.

Employers could gain a great amount of goodwill by accommodating requests to allow staff to watch or listen sport in the workplace. Showing flexibility about this can improve and maintain morale which can feed through to better productivity and the Company’s bottom line.


How do we go about it?

In all these cases, stress how this can be managed without disrupting the work that needs to be done? Simply making modest changes to working time could mean that it’s still easy to hit any important deadlines or targets.

Tackle the issue early. If you are going to make accommodation for staff in some way, it would be easiest, not to mention fairest, if this is discussed long enough in advance for them to make any changes or announcements when the time comes.

Negotiation and discussion is easiest on all sides when there are several people with the same interest. Do you have a forum or channel to the discuss the matter with staff? Larger employers may have a union or staff council to do this, but it may be as simple as putting up a notice asking for people to stand as a rep for their department or just to give their view individually.

Put forward proposals and see what’s acceptable or if anyone has a better idea? There are several ways to allow staff to watch sport with minimal impact on the business:

  • allowing changes to starting or finishing times or breaks during the working day. Managers could also look favourably on requests for leave and flexitime;
  • encouraging managers to think about work-scheduling to avoid important deadlines clashing with key events where possible;
  • providing a television viewing room for sporting events. This would help to reduce disruption and absenteeism;
  • allowing staff to listen to some events on radios while working. This request should be easy to meet, providing it doesn’t disrupt other staff or public facing parts of the business; or
  • allowing staff with internet access to follow events over online video or audio, in the background, or in their own time at their desks. Whether or not this is allowed, the policy on personal web use should be clarified in advance, as many people trying to access online video simultaneously could put a strain on the organisation’s connectivity if not managed properly.

Remember that the World Cup has 32 teams and staff from other countries may wish to support their own national team as well.


What about those staff who are not interested in sport?

Your need to make sure that those who aren’t interested in watching a sporting event don’t get left with a larger share of the work. This should be easy where working time is simply being shifted around a bit.

However, if they cover for their colleagues, the Company should see if they can be recognised or recompensed in any way. This could be a simple thank you to an adjustment in duties to recognise that their efforts allowed others to enjoy the football. Being acknowledged or thanked often means a lot to staff.

It should also ensure that televisions and radios do not disrupt quiet working environments. Also, consider whether doing this presents a concern from a health and safety point of view.

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An employer does not have to allow staff to view sport or have time off for sport while they are at work.

However, making an accommodation can be good for all in terms of goodwill and morale.

Consider whether the Company ought to propose something or wait until staff approach the Company?

If the Company says no, give reasons and allow staff to see if they can resolve the issues to make it work. If the Company says yes, then consider the practicalities and remember that there will always need to be some compromise.

In practice not, all staff will be interested in watching and as long as wherever practical, all views and needs are taken into account and provided service levels are met, it should be seen as a “win-win situation.”

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