The FIFA World Cup 2014: Employment Relationships

The FIFA World Cup 2014: Employment Relationships

15th May 2014

Tension is building in the air, the athletes are ready to play and their fans are ready to shout and cheer them on to glory; The FIFA World Cup 2014, hosted by Brazil, is due to kick off an get into full swing on 12 June 2014. For many it’s a time to kick back and enjoy the “beautiful game“.

However, the impact upon Employers and the economy generally, is likely to be significant with estimates that the very existence of the World Cup this year will lead to up to 250,000,000 working hours being lost[i] by British businesses alone.


These losses will occur as a result of:

  • a) Employees taking time out to watch the games (although this disruption may be reduced for many by the fact that the games in this world cup will take place in the evening in BST time). In the 2010 world cup it was estimated that there were between 12 and nearly 19 million TV viewers watching the England games[ii]. This obviously does not account for the millions of others who were watching the game in pubs, clubs and other social settings around the UK.
  • b) The subsequent “sickie” taken by some employees on the day following games due to over indulgence in alcohol. It is a common feature that following major sporting events the number of employees attending work is often reduced the following day, for example in America it was estimated that 1.5 million people phoned in sick the day after their Superbowl[iii]. Studies have also suggested that 63% of people in the UK would call in sick when they’re “feeling fragile” after a heavy night[iv]. It follows that given that the games in this World Cup will be played in the evenings we can expect that a similar pattern of absence will ensue in the UK.
  • c) The reduction in capacity by employees who do attend work having either over indulged, or simply because they have stayed up late watching a game[v].


For Employers there are also other problems that they may encounter with their employees as a result of the World Cup festivities, and which should be monitored and where appropriate acted upon, and which can include misconduct issues such as drunkenness in the work place, time being wasted by employees surfing the internet reviewing statistics, updating their fantasy football teams.

There is a further, a potential problem arising from the World Cup for employers that takes the form of claims for Discrimination and/or Harassment on grounds of Race. Understandably for many there is an enhanced sense of patriotism and National Identity. However, employers must be wary of “office banter” etc., and the risk that overly zealous comments or actions by their employees. Equally, employers should be open and aware of the fact that all employees are not going to be English and may not support the English football team, but may support other countries’ national teams – employers should therefore ensure that all employees are treated equally.


To Employers:

In order to ensure that you can manage your business effectively, you should:

  • i) Plan ahead, and where it is reasonable and possible be flexible either in allowing employees the chance to swap shifts, make up their hours, or in granting holiday requests.
  • ii) Ensure that you have adequate policies and procedures in place governing sickness, being intoxicated in the workplace, the use of IT equipment etc., and use them where necessary to manage employees.
  • iii) Should use your disciplinary processes and procedures fully and always investigate any allegations of misconduct fully before taking action; it is possible that some employees may genuinely be ill and not nursing a hangover, so avoid knee jerk reactions.


To Employees:

If you’re a football fan, then you should enjoy the World Cup 2014, but;

  • i) Don’t assume that the rules governing your employment will change just because the World Cup is being played.
  • ii) If you want time off work then discuss this with your employer and arrange time off or discuss flexible working or the swapping of your shift, however, do not assume that this will be granted.
  • iii) Don’t be tempted to call in sick either in the event that you are not granted that time off, or on the days following a game; it is likely that your employer will know and disciplinary action will be started -note that Employer’s do not have to prove that you were “pulling a sickie” to take disciplinary action or impose a sanction, they only have to show that following an investigation they held a genuine and reasonable belief that you had done so.
  • iv) Whilst you may get caught up in the festivities, think before you take any action or make any comment. In particular consider the effect on those around you and whether what you say or do may be deemed to go too far and lead to allegations of discrimination or harassment and be aware that if you do then you may find yourself both being disciplined (and potentially dismissed) and facing a claim by another employee before the Employment Tribunal for compensation for such conduct.


If you employ others and you need further advice upon managing absenteeism or other issues arising out of the World Cup, or generally, then please contact us or call on 024 7653 1532.