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FSB advice for World Cup watching at work

With the World Cup about to kick off, the Forum of Private Business is advising its members to plan ahead for the likelihood that some employees will take more of an interest in their team’s fortunes than their duties and want to watch games during work hours.

This year’s tournament in South Africa has made life somewhat easier for some employers operating ‘nine to five’, Monday to Friday hours because kick-off times for England’s group matches are at weekends or in the evening during the week.

However, international football championships and other big sporting events often lead to staff being more distracted than normal and a raft of requests to view matches live.

The Forum’s advice includes the following tips:

Do nothing – If employees choose to be absent on that day without taking a holiday they leave themselves open to some form of disciplinary warning for unauthorised absence.

Screen the matches at work – An employer could install a television or projector screen at work so that employees can watch the game and use the occasion as a team-building event – then no one will have to take days off. Alternatively, they can listen to it on the radio. However, you should be aware with either of these options that the correct TV licence or licence from the Performing Rights Society will be required.

Allow flexible working – Another option is to let employees leave early to watch the game, but require them to make up the lost working hours during the week.

Use annual leave – A simple solution is to invite staff to book annual leave if they wish to watch a match.

Make watching the games a perk – The two hours off work that the match will typically take to watch can be used as an incentive based upon individual or group performance.

Avoid discriminating – Employers should be aware that, to avoid discriminating against staff members who are not supporting England, or uninterested in football, employers should offer the same concessions to all employees.

“Sporting events like the World Cup can present major headaches for small firms whose employees are understandably excited and want to watch games during work hours,” said the Forum’s Head of Policy Matt Goodman. “Work is work and it is important to know when to draw the line on issues such as unauthorised absenteeism and declining productivity, but the sensible approach for both employers and their staff is to be flexible.

“Watching games together in work can help team members to bond, as long as the lost hours are made up later, and firms could consider granting staff time off if cover is available. “

To help its members with their HR issues, the Forum provides a 24-hour legal helpline, legal expenses insurance and comprehensive business insurance packages. In addition, small businesses can benefit from the Forum’s annually-updated employment guide containing practical step-by-step guidance and templates covering every area of employment.

Employers should visit www.fpb.org/membership or call 0845 612 6266 for more information.