A North East employment law expert is advising regional firms to keep their eye on the ball during the World Cup - or risk absence and productivity issues.
Sarah Hall, a partner in the employment law team at Hay & Kilner 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 during matches, or on the mornings after them, as football fans have prioritised the World Cup over the workplace.
And with England’s first group match against Iran kicking off at 1pm on Monday 21 November, Sarah is urging employers to make sure their workers know where they stand well before the big day.
She says: "Major sporting events like the World Cup can really bring a workplace together in shared enthusiasm for everything they entail, but there are of course things employers need to consider in advance of the big kick-off that could have a serious impact on their staff's productivity and performance.
"England's first group match is being played on a Monday lunchtime, which many people will doubtless want to watch somewhere live, while their third one is on a Tuesday evening, so any 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 suspected that an employee has taken unauthorised time off to watch a match, it’s worth making sure that appropriate back-to-work interviews are undertaken and the rationale for their absence investigated.
“There may of course have been a legitimate reason, but consistently showing that any questionable non-attendance will be investigated shows employers are on top of the situation and may help to see off subsequent absences among the workforce.
"Depending on the workplace, matches taking place during the working day could 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."
If employers are not allowing time to watch the game, Sarah is recommending they pay particular attention to policies around personal use of the internet during working hours, including devices on which matches can be watched.
She continues: "Most people now have smartphones which they can use to watch any of the forthcoming games, and with many of them taking place during the working day, that could add up to a lot of lost time.
“If you’ve previously 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 guidelines 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.”