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Should you give employees time off to watch the World Cup?

There are many ways to ensure your staff can watch England’s work hours World Cup matches, says Remy Morland of HR Dept Swindon and Wiltshire

The World Cup is about to kick off in Qatar and this leaves employers wrestling with the thorny issue of whether to give their staff time off to watch.

England, in Group B, have games on November 21 against Iran, November 25 against the USA, and on November 29 they will be playing something of a local derby match against Wales.

The USA and Wales games may be less problematic for employers, as they kick off at 7pm GMT. But the game against Iran is in the middle of the day, at 1pm.

So, if you are an employer, should you let your staff watch? And, if England goes through – and fingers crossed they do – subsequent fixtures may also be during working hours. Plus, as they’ll be into the knockout rounds, these games will be all the more interesting to football fans.

The first thing to remember is there is no automatic right for employees to have time off to watch matches, so any decision taken is entirely at the discretion of you, the employer.

If employees want to be sure they can watch the games – especially if they have match tickets, and plan to fly out to Qatar – they’ll need to take time out of their holiday allocation, assuming they have enough holiday left.

However, you may decide that you want to give employees the chance to watch England games. One option is to be flexible with employees’ start and finish times, so you allow staff to watch the games, but they begin work earlier or leave later, to make up the time.

Alternatively, allow them to make up those couple of hours per game at a later date, to be agreed with you.

Make clear from the start what your policy is. If you allow staff to watch the Iran game on November 21, you may be setting up an expectation that, should England get through, you’ll allow all games to be watched. If this is your intention, then no problem. If it isn’t, then convey this to your team.

Some businesses are planning to install screens, or you may have televisions in your office anyway, so people can watch while they work, or at least follow the game. Remember to get a TV licence, if you don’t already have one. With the 1pm games, watching could be part of a longer lunch break.

In essence, any decision is down to the you, the employer, but with the World Cup looming, it’s too late to kick that decision into the long grass, or you may find yourself scoring an own goal with your team.

Remy Morland is head of HR consultancy at HR Dept Swindon and Wiltshire. Visit

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