Fifa World Cup 2018 – Are you tackling employee absences properly?

It was reported that absenteeism during the 2006 World Cup cost UK businesses £100 million a day.

With the 2018 Fifa World Cup in full swing ACAS has produced guidance to help employers prepare for potential issues. Such issues include unauthorised absences and a decrease in productivity that could arise during the World Cup period.

Employers who are concerned about staff productivity should start planning and implementing procedures as soon as possible to reduce the impact that the World Cup could have on their business.

Create a tactical strategy

I’m not talking about a blind-pass or tackle. I’m talking about a business strategy.

Before the start of any major sporting event (whether it’s the Olympics or the World Cup), employers should consider having agreements or policies in place to deal with taking time off, sickness absence or even watching football matches during work hours.

Ideally you should gauge the level of interest in the World Cup within your business. If no one in your company is at all interested in football, then there might not be any issues!

Defender or attacker?

Employers should be flexible. An employer should consider a more flexible working day such as allowing employees to come in a little later or finish earlier, and agree when this time can be made up.

You may also want to allow staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV in a communal area as a possible option. Any change in hours or flexible working arrangements should be agreed in advance by the employee’s manager.

Time out

Employees who wish to take time off work around the time of the World Cup should book annual leave in the normal way, as set out in any policies. However, employers may wish to look at being a little more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period.

Some employees may want to travel to Russia to watch the matches live, however, they should remember not to book flights until leave has been agreed. Employees should also be aware that they may experience travel delays when they are back in the UK so should return in plenty of time so their work doesn’t suffer.

It is important that both parties come to an agreement – staff should however, be made aware that it may not always be possible for special arrangements to be made. All businesses will, after all, need to maintain minimum staffing levels.

Don’t get called foul!

A consistent approach should be applied for leave requests particularly when this comes to other major sporting events. Employers should remember that not everyone likes football! Even though it is expected that football fans will be first in line for holiday application requests during this time, employers should ensure that holiday is granted fairly on a ‘first come first serve’ basis.

Football sickness

Your sickness policy will still apply during this time and this policy should be operated fairly and consistently for all staff.

Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period. Employers should ensure that there are clear rules and procedures in place for dealing with absences (including late attendance due to post match hangovers) or patterns of absence. Employers should make staff aware that patterns of absence could result in formal proceedings against the employee.

For further information read Managing sickness absence and Managing employee absenteeism.

Social media and website use – #WorldCup2018

There is likely to be an increase in use of social media and websites during the World Cup period. Employers should therefore ensure that they have a Social media policy in place making it clear what is and isn’t acceptable usage.

Drinking or being under the influence

The World Cup is likely to lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol. Employers should therefore re-issue ‘zero alcohol policies’ and/or remind staff that anyone found under the influence of alcohol at work could be subject to disciplinary procedures.

If employees decide to have a ‘liquid lunch’, employers should encourage employees to take the rest of the day as annual leave or unpaid leave in order to have business continuity and minimise the amount of disruption to the business.


If you’ve considered these things for your business and employees, then there’s no reason you can’t achieve your goals. Careful planning will enable the World Cup period to run smoothly for businesses and allow staff to enjoy the event. It is anticipated that employers who are flexible in their approach, are less likely to suffer from employees taking unauthorised absences.


Alan Cheung – Rocket Lawyer

Fifa World Cup 2018 – Are you tackling employee absences properly?

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