According to Jerome Valcke, FIFA secretary general, Brazil isn't. The first game of the tournament is a month today and with stadiums still to be completed, people protesting on the streets at the cost of staging the World Cup, Brazil is bracing itself for a stressful six weeks.
But my question was, ‘are you ready?’
Having celebrated the success of Leicester City Football Club, our new local English Premier League team, I know the lengths that some committed football fans will go to to enjoy the ‘full experience’ of watching their team play. As a season ticket holder for over ten years, I have travelled the country watching the Foxes win, lose and draw, experiencing the highs and lows of a 10-year absence from the top flight.
Seriously, though, whilst many of us look forward to the World Cup, it can prove to be a big headache for employers. Now is the time that managers and employers should be announcing their arrangements for the World Cup. Just like any significant risk, event or project, it pays to prepare and to plan ahead.
Here are some of my thoughts on how the World Cup might impact upon you and your organisation – even if you don't like football.
There is a time difference between the UK and Brazil and the earliest kick-off time for matches will be 17:00. Unless employers operate evening and night-shift rotas, this may prove to be less troublesome than previous tournaments in terms of staff pulling unauthorised ‘sickies’, booking off-site appointments and meetings.
Nobody likes to be a ‘party pooper’. I recommend making people aware in advance, how World Cup related unauthorised absences will be managed. One way could be to make it known that you will be scrutinising absences during the tournament, carrying out return to work interviews for all absences and taking disciplinary action for the worst offenders. You could look to review contracts and handbooks to ascertain whether you have the ability to withhold pay for unauthorised absence.
Alternatively, you could consider taking steps to minimise unauthorised absence by implementing schemes to accommodate people watching games, including allowing employees to finish slightly early to get home in time for kick-off or permitting shift swaps. Rather than negatively affecting people’s enjoyment and experience, you could enhance it.
And it is not just the early evening matches that could cause a fall in attendance and productivity. People who have to work an evening shift might also like some help to be able to watch their country play their games.
During the tournament, the consumption of alcohol on week-nights is likely to be higher, which may result in more self-inflicted days off, lateness or reduced performance in the workplace on days following matches. Having an alcohol policy in place is essential as it allows employers to make it clear to employees what will and will not be tolerated in relation to being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace and other alcohol related issues. Make sure you have adequate health and safety policies and procedures in place because as the employer, the main responsibility rests with you.
If you have not already had an increase in holiday requests, how are you going to decide who is allowed time off and who is not? You must make sure that all requests are dealt with fairly and consistently. What if someone wants time off who is NOT a football fan? All of your decisions must be based on non-discriminatory criteria. Refusing a tennis loving fan Wimbledon leave on the same day as England play Costa Rica could leave you with a discrimination claim on your hands.
Social Media and Internet usage
You might want to consider how people might use and abuse social media during the tournament, You might also need to consider the consequences and potential problems of streaming matches on a number of platforms whilst at work.
It is so easy for people to use their laptops, tablets and smart phones and spend hours on social media platforms. If people are watching live matches on TV in the workplace (in the UK) a valid TV licence is required - if caught without a licence, you could be liable for a fine of up to £1,000.
Loyalties can lead to light banter or even discrimination. Patriotism often runs high during major football championships, and therefore you ensure that ‘banter’ between employees of competing nationalities does not stray into offensive remarks being made based upon a person’s nationality.
Equally, you must treat all employees the same when granting requests for holidays or early finishes. If Italian fans are allowed to finish early, supporters of a different nationality such as France or Russia wanting to support their team should likewise have their requests granted. Failure to manage requests and overzealous banter could lead to claims for Race Discrimination or Harassment.
To use one or two football clichés, ‘at the end of the day’ it is of course about find a balance between maintaining an efficient workforce and allowing people to follow and enjoy the event. The best way forward is to plan and NOT to take ‘one game at a time’. With a little imagination, it is possible to meet the needs of the fervent, die-hard football fans within your team, the football agnostics within your team and your business.
Enjoy the tournament and ‘good luck’ to whichever country you follow!