Flexible working might help firms to deal with World Cup fever, claims ACAS

Flexible working and the World CupWhile FIFA works out whether it wants to dig itself in deeper or climb out of its own hole in addressing the World Cup bribery scandal, thoughts in the business world about this Summer’s quadrennial festival of football turn, yet again, to the matter of how to deal with it all. One of the first up with suggestions this time is the UK employment conciliation service agency ACAS which thinks the answer no longer lies in turning a blind eye to what people get up to, but instead working around it. They are urging firms to allow staff to work flexibly during the World Cup so they can watch games with minimal disruption to business. ACAS last month issued new guidance on flexible working in advance of a change in the rights of workers to request flexible working at the end of June, and is now suggesting that flexible working will help to reduce absenteeism and disruption during the tournament in Brazil which begins on June 12.

The guidance suggests that employers should have agreements in place to deal with requests for time off, sickness absence or watching TV or websites. 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. Many businesses need to maintain a certain staffing level in order to survive. Employers should have a set of simple workplace agreements in place before kick off to help ensure their businesses remain productive whilst keeping staff happy too. Our guidance published today can help managers get the best from their team players and avoid unnecessary penalties.”

John Allan, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Our members, many of whom are small family firms, will find this guidance useful during the World Cup period as it will help them to comply with the law while avoiding confusion among managers and employees during a period when national excitement will be at fever pitch. Provided that employers agree and communicate a clear set of workplace rules with their staff before the World Cup kicks off, this should avoid problems and help them maintain necessary staffing and attendance levels.”

Acas offers the following tips for employers to consider for the 2014 World Cup:

  • Annual leave – employers may wish to look at being a little more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period and employees should remember that it may not always be possible to book leave off. The key is for both parties to try and come to an agreement. All requests for leave should be considered fairly. A consistent approach should be applied for leave requests for other major sporting events too as not everyone likes football. [Fools – ed]
  •  Sickness absence – levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the company’s attendance policy. Any unauthorised absence or patterns of absence could result in formal proceedings. This could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness or late attendance due to post match hangovers.
  • Flexibility – one possible option is to have a more flexible working day. Employees could come in a little later or finish sooner and then agree when this time can be made up.
  • Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV may be another possible option. Employers could also allow staff to take a break during match times. Another option is to look at allowing staff to swap shifts with their manager’s permission.
  • It is important to be fair and consistent with all staff if you allow additional benefits during the World Cup. Any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved before the event.
  • Use of social media and websites – there may be an increase in the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter or websites covering the World Cup.
  • Employers should have a clear policy on web use in the workplace that is communicated to all employees. If employers are monitoring internet usage then the law requires them to make it clear that it is happening to all employees.
  • Drinking or being under the influence at work – some people may like to participate in a drink or two while watching the match or go to the pub to watch a match live. It is important to remember that anyone caught drinking at work or under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures. There may be a clear no alcohol policy at work and employees may need a reminder.
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