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ACAS publish guidance ahead of World Cup

Sir Brendan Barber, the chair of ACAS, has warned employees about the risks of getting a “red card” from their employer during the World Cup. He was introducing guidelines which ACAS have published, with a view to ensuring that employees can enjoy the tournament, which runs during June and July, while causing as little disruption to businesses as possible.

The guidance is divided into the following headings:

Working together

Flexibility is encouraged throughout the World Cup, and employers are advised to have agreements in place regarding issues such as time off, sickness absence and even watching TV during the tournament.

Annual leave

Employers may receive increased annual leave requests during the tournament and should think in advance about how to manage this. One approach is to be more flexible about allowing leave during this period – although it should be made clear that this is a temporary arrangement. Consider annual leave requests fairly and consistently.

For their part, employees are advised to acknowledge that such flexibility might not be possible, and would be temporary in any event.

Sickness absence

Employers are advised to monitor sickness absence levels closely during the tournament, in accordance with their attendance management policy.

Employees are given a reminder that unauthorised absence or patterns in absence (such as high levels of absence or late attendance) could result in formal disciplinary proceedings. If an employer reasonably believes that an employee’s absence was not genuinely due to sickness then they can be disciplined for misconduct.


Flexibility is encouraged throughout the guidance. This may include allowing employees to swap shifts, start work earlier or later, or take breaks during matches. Any changes in working hours should be approved before the event.

Another approach would be to allow employees to listen to the radio or watch TV at specified times, agreeing in advance when the time can be made up.

Use of social networking and websites

Increased use of social networking is anticipated during the tournament. Employers are reminded to have a clear policy in place covering acceptable levels of internet use and to remind employees about what it says. Employers should decide in advance whether to allow employees to keep track of games at work or to have a zero-tolerance approach. If internet usage is going to be monitored, tell employees in advance that it is happening and why, to ensure compliance with data protection legislation.

Alcohol at work

Employees are reminded that anyone caught drinking at work or found to be under the influence of alcohol at work could be subject to disciplinary procedures. It may be worth reminding employees of a zero-tolerance to alcohol at work policy.

What the guidance means for you

The overarching themes of the guidelines seem to be flexibility and cooperation. Nevertheless, they make clear that misconduct or failure to comply with the policies which are in force may justify disciplinary action from the employer.

The guidance notes that similar steps should be taken by employers in relation to other sporting events. It remains to be seen whether separate guidance is published in advance of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but, if not, this guidance will be a useful reference point for employers and employees alike.

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