The summer of sport is now well underway, with the World Cup in full swing as well as the soon-to-launch Wimbledon.

Due to time differences between the UK and Russia though, many of the World Cup matches will be taking place during the normal working week, so as the excitement builds, how do you avoid this affecting your business? Employment law expert Michael Shroot addresses the issues.

Agree your stance

The first thing to do is agree where you stand on employees viewing matches during work hours.

While some employers may have the stance that all staff should be prevented from following the tournament while at work, others may choose to be flexible to work with what could be an inevitable distraction for employees during the working day.

If you want to be more flexible with staff during these periods, perhaps set up a dedicated TV with the matches on in the office for staff to keep an eye on scores. You could even consider a work social to improve morale by having a screening of a particular game in the office – but be careful not to breach any licensing laws and the usual rules that apply to work events.

Aside from the health and safety aspects, you will need to ensure that standard disciplinary standards are kept to and respect for fellow workers continues.

Communication is key

It’s important that decisions are made up front and communicated with staff ahead of the policies being implemented. It’s vital to ensure there’s consistency in treatment of staff with regards to any temporary allowances to accommodate fans, while normal procedures should also be carefully followed to avoid any grievances being raised or unfair dismissal claims being brought.

On the other hand, taking a tougher stance may inevitably cause absenteeism and decreased efficiency, therefore it’s vital to have a specific policy in place to cover these cases.

Managing absence

From a legal perspective you need to make sure you have clear absence and record keeping procedures in place. If an employee is off without authority during this timeframe, which you suspect could be to do with something other than genuine sickness, stringent absence procedures ensures this can be clamped down on straight away.

It may be useful to have a specific policy in respect of summer sport absences drafted, so staff are fully aware of your views as an employer as to what is and is not acceptable.

It’s inevitable that some employees will be distracted, so you may see an increase in requests for holiday leave.

Taking time off

Consider planning a first come first serve basis in respect of holiday requests for the matches, making it clear that those who do not get the holiday but are not in work for any reason will be subject to investigation. This could be done by sending a memo around making it clear to staff what is expected if they want to take time off work due to sports events.

Consider allowing all those who want time off work to watch a match during the working day, some time off with unpaid leave or longer breaks – this way staff can watch the match and then focus their time at work afterwards, which may improve efficiency.

A number of strategies can be adopted that can work for both the business and its staff. Anything can be achieved through flexibility, agreement and lateral thinking, although with England’s record in the World Cup, this issue could be a short-lived issue.

For further advice on managing employees during major sporting events, call Michael Shroot on 0161 761 4611, or email him at Michael.Shroot@whnsolicitors.co.uk