The World Cup and the Workplace – What’s the score?

The 2018 FIFA World Cup starts today, marking one month of football fever. But are employers ready for kick off?

Given that the World Cup Final in 2014 drew in over 20 million UK viewers, one can assume that many employees will be keen to follow this year’s tournament. Employers, on the other hand, may have concerns about levels of staff productivity and the impact of the World Cup upon their business. Employers will want to keep their team on side, whilst at the same time making sure that productivity and efficiency levels are not affected. Before the first whistle blows, there should be clear communication to all staff about the employer’s expectations as to conduct during the tournament.

The conciliation group, Acas, has recently published new guidance to help employers tackle potentially difficult situations and provided some helpful tips for managing employees over the course of the World Cup.

Annual Leave

With some matches kicking off before the end of most people’s working day, employees may want to take time off to support their favourite team. Employers could find themselves dealing with several competing requests for annual leave and it is important that these are dealt with in a fair and consistent way, i.e. on a first come, first served basis.

Acas also suggests that employers show a greater degree of flexibility towards working hours during the tournament, even if on a temporary or short term basis. For example, it may be appropriate to allow employees to leave work earlier in time for kick off on the basis that this time can be made up, or allow employees to swap shifts.

Social media and web use

There may be an increase in the use of social media and websites covering the event. Some employees may also wish to listen to the radio or watch TV during working hours. Employers should in any event have a clear IT policy regarding social media and internet usage in the workplace, but also make clear to what extent it is prepared to bend the rules to accommodate the football.


Employers may find there is a higher level of absenteeism or people taking sick leave over the course of the event if, for example, businesses are unable to accommodate requests for annual leave, or employees have overindulged when watching a match the night before. Attendance levels should therefore be monitored during the World Cup in line with current attendance policies. To avoid any foul play or resulting red cards, employees should also be reminded of sickness and absence policies, including any disciplinary procedures arising from unexplained or unauthorised absences.

If necessary, employers may need to review workplace policies concerning annual leave, sickness and internet usage. Some employers may consider implementing a ‘sporting policy’ outlining any amendments to accepted working practices, with the added benefit of utilising such a policy during other sporting events.

Of course, not everyone will be interested in watching the football and a consistent approach should be taken with regard to all employees when allowing any additional benefits during the World Cup.

Ultimately, Acas recommends that employers take a flexible approach in order to get the best from their team players. Regardless of the scores, the World Cup should hopefully not cause any workplace headaches or heartaches for employers or their employees.

Acas’ full guidance can be found here.

Chelsie Nicholls is a Paralegal at leading employment law firm BDBF.