A North East employment law expert is advising regional firms to keep their eye on the ball during the World Cup – or risk things kicking off with their staff.
Sarah Hall, a partner in the employment law team at Hay & Kilner Law Firm in Newcastle, is recommending that North East managers make sure their employees know where they stand when it comes to workplace productivity, performance and attendance during the month-long tournament.
Previous tournaments have seen a rise in absenteeism as football fans have prioritised the World Cup over the workplace, with research carried out during the 2014 tournament in Brazil suggesting one in eight of those questioned openly admitted to ‘throwing a sickie’ to watch a game.
Sarah Hall says: “Major sporting events like the World Cup can really bring a workplace together in shared enthusiasm for everything they entail, but there are related issues that employers need to be considering in advance of the big kick-off that could have a serious impact on their staff’s productivity and performance.
“England’s group matches are being played in the evenings or at a weekend, so there’s likely to be less of an immediate problem with football-related absenteeism in most workplaces, but that could change as the tournament goes on, and fans choosing to celebrate an England victory into the night may not be in the ideal shape at work the next morning.
“If it is thought that any employee has taken unauthorised time off to watch a match, it’s worth making sure that back-to-work interviews are undertaken and the rationale for their absence investigated. There may have been a legitimate reason, but showing that any questionable non-attendance will be checked shows the focus is on and may help to see off subsequent absences among the workforce.
“Matches taking place during the working day could, of course, provide a great opportunity to build staff morale by giving everyone the chance to watch them together, an approach which will hopefully have a positive impact on the workplace long after the final whistle has blown.”
Sarah Hall is advising employers pay particular attention to policies around personal use of the internet during working hours, and of devices on which matches can be watched.
She continues: “Technology is developing quickly, and most people now have smartphones they can use to watch games. If previously you’ve only considered the use of company equipment in your internet policy, now is the time to tackle what happens if someone is making personal use of the internet during working hours on their own equipment.
“The key thing is for employers to be prepared – if they haven’t drawn up policies for any of these areas, it’s important that they act now to do so, and even if such documents are in place, they should be checking to make sure that they’re still fit for purpose.