Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

World Cup fever and ‘sickies’ a big headache for employers

More than a third of people in England are prepared to miss work to watch their national team play during the World Cup, according to a survey out today.

An estimated 38% of full-time workers aged 18 to 45 are planning to be out of the office to cheer their team, the YouGov survey found.

A total of 2,463 people were asked what they were likely to do to watch a particular match.

While 5% said they would take a sickie, 18% said they would go to the pub with friends or colleagues and 23% said they would take the day or half-day off. Respondents were allowed to give more than one answer.

The survey found 5% would be prepared to miss or reschedule their first day in a new job to watch a key game on television, 28% would reschedule a planned business lunch and 17% would defer a meeting with their boss.

Almost half of respondents (48%) said being allowed to watch the key games would be the biggest booster to morale.

Although Northern Ireland failed to make it to the tournament in South Africa, which kicks off next Friday, Invest NI has urged firms to be prepared to be flexible — citing a separate poll by PricewaterhouseCoopers that found one in four employees are planning to watch games in working hours.

Shauna Fenton from Invest NI said: “The World Cup will lead to a number of people wanting time off to enjoy the games. As a result, employers need to prepare for an increase in annual leave requests and the effect this will have on their business.

“It’s important to communicate to your staff exactly what your plans are for the World Cup. Flexibility and innovation will be welcomed by staff and will increase morale.”

International legal practice DLA Piper also urged UK businesses to allow flexible working.

Head of employment Tim Marshall said: “After what has been a really tough couple of years, a lot of UK businesses are seeing the World Cup as providing a bit of light relief and are offering flexibility as a way of boosting employee relations, as well as trying to mitigate the impact of unexpected absences in the workplace.

“Shift-swapping and flexible hours are all great strategies, but business leaders need to consider the implications of their actions.

“By failing to offer staff who follow teams other than England the same opportunities for flexible working, employers are potentially opening themselves up to allegations of discrimination.

“Equally, by not offering flexible working patterns to staff that don't follow football at all and expecting them to pick up their colleagues' work, bosses could be undoing much of the goodwill they have tried to create.”

In a survey of 352 business leaders and HR professionals, the company found 51% were planning to offer flexible working to staff who wanted to watch the England games, with shift-swapping (33%), early finishes (59%) and late starts (35%).

But only 19% were planning to offer flexible working patterns for all World Cup matches and 76% planned to offer no flexibility at all to staff who do not follow football.

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