Cars are sprouting flags from their windows. Football tops are to be seen everywhere. It seems that world cup fever is already upon us! The actual matches don't kick off until June. When they do there is likely to be an increase in “sick days”. In a recent survey of 2191 adults,13% of men and 4% of women admitted calling in sick to watch a match, or to recover from match-related drinking the night before.

Prevention is better than cure so it’s worth giving some thought to managing world cup side effects. You might consider the following possibilities:


  • Expect an increase in the level of annual leave requests for around this time. Ask employees to submit requests by a deadline. Let them know the basis on which holiday requests will be granted e.g. first come first served.
  • If you have to refuse a request follow your holiday procedures and note the counter-notice provisions under the Working Time Regulations.
  • Be careful when dealing with holiday requests at this time that you do not discriminate against women.
  • Be aware of main matches times. Visit the FA website for fixtures. Many of the matches involving (or potentially involving) England are either at the week-end or at later times in the working day.
  • You could introduce flexible hours where appropriate, allowing employees to come in early and leave early when matches are played at 5pm. If you don't normally allow employees to take half day holidays consider doing so that they can watch the 2pm matches. NB this flexibility should be available to all employees not just those who are football fans.


- Consider screening the most popular matches. You may wish to allow employees to take a two hour lunch break for matches screened at 2pm on a working day and work an extra hour at the end of the day. You may also want to build a "cooling-off" period to allow a football post mortem.

- Publish a World Cup Policy. This could include the following:


  1. Employees who wish to take time off to watch a sporting event must book annual leave using the normal procedures
  2. Annual leave will not unreasonably be refused, but may not be granted in order to maintain minimum staffing levels
  3. Disciplinary action may be taken if an employee is absent on the day of a major sporting event without a valid or medical reason
  4. Employees absent without authorisation will not be paid for the time not worked
  5. A TV or radio may be provided at the employer’s discretion
  6. Employees are not permitted to consume alcohol on work premises or during working hours
  7. This policy is non-contractual and the organisation reserves the right to amend or withdraw it at any time

This article was supplied by Kate Russell, Russell Personnel & Training. For further information contact 0845 644 8955 or email