The excitement of the World Cup is with us, but with it the challenge for employers of dealing with workplace absence as employees take time off to watch (or recover from watching) matches. For small businesses in particular, there are real challenges as the heady excitement of England being in a major tournament takes over.

Although matches in Brazil take place mostly in the evening, some employees will want time off during the World Cup to watch matches or perhaps have time to recover. So it’s worth giving thought to how you can ensure your staff are clear about requesting holidays.

Consider putting in place a temporary policy, or sending out a clear communication, detailing the approach that will be taken by your company during the World Cup. For example, specify that staff must request time off by a certain date and that you will make every effort to accommodate requests but that it might not be possible to grant all. You could perhaps consider allowing flexibility in employees’ finish times when an England match is on at 5pm, for example, on the basis that lost time is made up.

And what about the “rogue” few who don’t get the leave that they requested and then develop a mysterious virus on the day that they wanted off, or those who have perhaps celebrated a bit too much to make it into work the next day…..?! Re-iterate your sickness policy and look out for suspicious patterns of absence over the period of the event. You could consider asking employees who go off sick during that time to report their absence to a specific person in order to show employees that sickness absence is being monitored, and ensure that the designated person poses the right type of questions to all those who call in sick e.g. ‘Sorry to hear that, how long do you think you’ll be off for?’, ‘can you call me later in the date to provide an update on how you are feeling’ (if it is just a minor ailment).  Where it can be categorically proven that sickness is not genuine, for example if an employee is foolish enough to post what a great time they had that day on a social networking site or was even unlucky enough to be seen out watching the event or celebrating, you can of course instigate disciplinary proceedings for non-genuine and unauthorised absence.

If you have the facilities, of course, you could set up a TV on the premises and positively encourage your staff to watch and support on the proviso that the time spent doing so is worked back and that behaviour during the coverage is appropriate. This could be a great time to boost morale and team spirit by celebrating the world cup with your staff.

If you would like a policy or guide for dealing with requests for time off work, or specific help to tackle your company challenges during the world cup, citrusHR provide a guide to help you tackle these and similar scenarios – like of course the Commonwealth Games, starting next month.

Sherry Jacobs is an HR Consultant with citrusHR.

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