Penalty for world cup skivers

PUBLISHED: 15:53 06 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:17 06 May 2010

IT S totally tempting to throw in the towel at work – if only for the odd day here and there – in order to see all the big World Cup matches played live. After all, sitting through the edited highlights when you get home after a hard day s toil just doesn

IT'S totally tempting to throw in the towel at work - if only for the odd day here and there - in order to see all the big World Cup matches played live. After all, sitting through the edited highlights when you get home after a hard day's toil just doesn't compare to watching the real thing, whooping and cheering as you go along.

But footie-mad workers beware - this year bosses are blowing the whistle on skiving staff, so pulling a sickie during 2006's summer of soccer could be a big, big mistake.

New research reveals that more than four in five bosses are intent on tackling offside behaviour by their team. Slackers could be handed the yellow card or, worse still, given the boot. Either way, it's a high penalty to pay.

Harsh managers even expect their staff to be suited, booted and ready for action on Monday July 10, even if there's massive cause for celebration the day before thanks to England winning the tournament - or commiseration if they get an absolute slating.

In a survey of 600 small and medium-sized businesses, more than 83 per cent of employers said they plan to apply the letter of the law when it comes to unauthorised absences or drops in productivity between June 9 and July 9.

Even if England get to lift the cup for the first time since Geoff Hurst and the boys did it 40 years ago, just eight per cent of slave-driving managers are on the ball enough to reward their staff with a day off after the final.

But harsh though it may seem, employment law experts say most bosses are right not to turn a blind eye, even at the risk of being labelled party poopers.

"While it might be tempting to ignore the odd indiscretion for the sake of staff morale, employers could be storing up problems for the future," says Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at Employment Law Advisory Services (ELAS), which carried out the research.

"Allowing staff to phone in sick just because they have a hangover sets a precedent which they or their colleagues may seek to exploit long after the final whistle has been blown, leaving employers in a difficult position.

"The important thing is for managers to treat any poor behaviour in exactly the same way as they would normally," he continues.

"Unfortunately, if that means invoking the disciplinary procedures on the eve of the final, then so be it."

Although absenteeism is expected to be less of a problem this year than in the past, primarily because most of England's matches fall outside the normal working day, employers still need to kick into action as early as possible, to prevent an office World Cup crisis.

Peter Mooney advises employers to set out a World Cup policy before the tournament even begins, in order to make it crystal clear what will be allowed and what will be seen as unacceptable, foul behaviour and conduct.

"Employers could encounter lots of problems during the tournament, from absenteeism and low productivity to internal frictions caused when well meaning patriotism goes too far," he explains.

"While some employers are happy to make allowances to maintain morale, such as allowing staff to work flexible hours so that they can leave early to catch the game, their generosity does have its limits.

"By laying down the rules in advance, employers can play along with the feel-good factor when we win, without tying their own hands when it comes to dealing with any issues of misconduct," he says.

The message is pretty clear. There's a fine line between keeping up with all the on-pitch goings on and becoming a blatant skiver who lets the side down at work, but with some careful planning, communication and teamwork, management and staff can find practical solutions to ensure everyone's a winner during this World Cup.

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