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Can I watch the World Cup at work - A guide for employers

'Can I watch the World Cup at work?' Guidance for Employers

Jun 7th, 2018

The more observant amongst you may have noticed something odd is beginning to happen.  Miniature flags are all of a sudden sprouting from cars across the country and you’re having to remind yourself it is not 1996 with the amount of times you are hearing the Lightning Seeds.

This is not some weird alternative reality; this is because the World Cup will be kicking off shortly in Russia.

For most people this is going to be a month long party, or at least until England inevitably get knocked out in penalties, but if there is one cliché about Employment Lawyers it is that we love to ruin everyone’s fun.  So we have set out some top tips to deal with HR issues during the World Cup.

Watching live World Cup matches at work

One issue that employers traditionally have during the World Cup is what to do if a game is shown during your normal working hours.  This issue should hopefully be minimised in this tournament.

Due to the way the World Cup has been drawn all of England’s games will either be played at 7pm or at a weekend, even if England make it all the way to the final.  Therefore matches during working hours should not be an issue for the majority of employers.

If you do find that your staff are working when an important World Cup game is on you could consider having a break to allow the staff to watch the game or letting staff listen to the game on the radio. 

If you do let your staff watch games during working hours make sure your business has a TV licence, if you allow staff to watch games without you having a TV licence you may be subject to a £1000 fine if you are caught.

Sickness absence following World Cup matches

Whilst employers might consider it an advantage that the games take place after work time, you may need to consider what you will do about increased sickness absences and late arrivals the day after big games.

Firstly it is important that you should not jump to any conclusions about the employees absence, they may have been genuinely ill the day following a big game.

The best way to deal with this is to be proactive.  If it is not your normal policy, consider during the World Cup period to make return to work interviews following any illness mandatory and make sure your employees know about this.  If employees know they will be required to have these meetings it may discourage them from taking unauthorised time off.

Taking leave during the World Cup

Another way to deal with any issues regarding unauthorised absences is to relax your rules about taking leave.  If you allow employees to take leave at short notice and perhaps allow more staff off at one time than normal, you can allow your employees to enjoy the World Cup but without the impact on the business that unplanned absences can cause.

Internet Use

With a big event such as the World Cup, you can expect your employees to keenly follow games and news items on the internet and this may take place during working hours.

You can deal with this by reminding your employees of the policies you already have in place. If your policy provides for no personal internet use, remind your employees of this.  If your policy provides limited personal use, remind employees that personal use must be limited and any parameters of personal use that you impose.


This can be an issue for any employer, but particularly those with a diverse range of nationalities working for them.

There might be an increased level of ‘banter’ between employees of different nationalities during this time, which could develop into a bullying situation. Remember that employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. It is therefore worth reminding employees about their responsibilities under any anti-bullying/harassment or discrimination policies you have.

In particular at this World Cup due to the nature of the draw, there is a distinct possibility that England will play Poland in the first knockout round of the tournament on either Monday 2nd or Tuesday 3rd July.  If this happens depending on the make up of your workforce you may find that this is a situation which may need to be managed.

You should also consider equally any requests to watch games. If you allow an English employee time off to watch an England game but refuse to allow a French employee time off to watch a France game that is likely to amount to discrimination. You should therefore consider all requests for time off equally and do so in accordance with accepted Company procedures.

The World Cup and Work - How to Win as an Employer

The World Cup does not create a unique set of new problems for businesses to deal with. However, it does potentially increase the likelihood of problems occurring that you have probably dealt with many times before.

Most businesses will have policies in place for absences, late attendance, internet use, bullying and discrimination. The best solution to the problems posed by the World Cup is to enforce the policies you already have and do so fairly and consistently. If you do not have any of these policies, then perhaps this is a good time to look at implementing an appropriate policy.

Finally there is potentially one date you should put in your diaries, Monday 16th July 2018. If the unthinkable happens and England actually win a penalty shoot-out and go all the way to the final, then this would kick off at 4:00pm on Sunday 15th July 2018. If England somehow managed to win the World Cup then you can probably expect record levels of absence on 16th July 2018!

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