HR issues during the World Cup – and how to manage them

By June 14, 2018Advice

Today marks the beginning of this year’s FIFA World Cup. If previous editions of the tournament have been anything to go by, it can cause excitement – and slight disruption – at work.


While embracing the football should be fun and can help build employee engagement, here are some guidelines you can use to make sure everyone knows the rules and can avoid falling foul of your organisation’s HR policies.


Holiday requests

Last minute holiday requests might increase as the World Cup progresses and more fixtures become apparent. Some games are during the day too, so some employees may find themselves fancying a day off.


If your annual leave policy requires employees to give a period of notice when requesting holidays, consider relaxing that rule for a temporary period. However, make sure that you operate on a first-come-first-served basis, and don’t just have the rule change in place for football fans only!


Managing sickness absence

It’s possible that some employees may avoid holiday requests altogether and ‘pull a sickie’ so they can watch the football. If you feel this is the case, treat it as you would any other instance of non-genuine absence.


Don’t assume that’s definitely the case, let the employee explain in return-to-work interviews, and gather evidence if you feel someone isn’t telling the truth. If you still believe their absence isn’t genuine, follow your disciplinary procedure.


Flexible working

If employees wish to work slightly different hours so they can get home in time to watch the football, you could build up some goodwill by allowing them to make up the time either earlier or later.


There’s also the chance that minds may be elsewhere if they’re missing a particularly big match during working hours. Allowing employees to watch on screens at work can be a good compromise, depending on operational needs.


Internet use

If you do allow employees to use the internet to watch matches during work time provide guidance on what is and isn’t acceptable usage, such as whether you’re allowing use of social media.



As previously mentioned, the relaxation of polices on flexible working and holiday requests should be available for everyone, whether football-related or not.


It’s also important to make sure that ‘banter’ doesn’t go too far, and become harassment or discrimination. This can always be a risk if rival nations play each other, or when debate between rival fans becomes hostile or intimidating.


Employers should remind employees that such behaviour can lead to disciplinary action, and not to say or do something they wouldn’t normally if football wasn’t involved.


Another way to avoid discrimination is by giving all fans the same treatment. For example, if you’ve allowed a predominantly England-supporting office time off to watch their match on TV, the same concession should be offered to employees of other nationalities too.



Any temporary changes to policies or reminders of acceptable behaviour should be communicated to employees to make them aware. An email is usually enough to fulfil this purpose.


If you have any queries, please give us a call on 020 7870 1090.

Author David Ralph

More posts by David Ralph

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