By Hannah King, Associate, B P Collins LLP

Four long and arduous years of preparation are over; you’ve got your team ready and in place and they’re raring to go.

An office formation of 4-5-1, with two interns on the flanks. The big match is upon us. Word reaches the press that two of your account managers have pulled out last minute due to ‘injuries’. Typical!

It may be a somewhat loose analogy, but for the next twenty-or-so days, bosses up and down the country are likely to receive phone calls and emails from staff unable to attend work or requesting leave, with the underlying, and often disguised reason being: The 2014 FIFA World Cup. Research suggests that ‘sickies’ alone could cost the British Economy £4billion during this year’s showcase event.

So what can you do, to help deter the ‘sickie’ or an influx of requests for annual leave?

The key to continuing a productive business and keeping an engaged workforce during the World Cup is to offer flexibility. Our advice is to ensure that your business has policies in place that cover requests for annual leave, sickness absence and even website use during work hours.

Your existing leave policy should provide guidance with regards to booking time off. Employers may wish to be more flexible during this time and should consider each request fairly. It’s important that both parties come to an agreement. But don’t forget – not everybody has a love for the game!

Likewise, an organisation’s sickness policy will still apply during the event. Attendance should be monitored however, and any patterns in absence or unauthorised absences may need to be escalated into formal proceedings. Especially if any post-match hangovers are suspected!

Another important consideration is flexible working. This might mean working from home or allowing staff to take a more flexible working day, where they may come in a little later or finish earlier, and then make the time up at a later date. Employees might allow staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV. Either way, this flexibility should be agreed before the event where possible.

Finally, there may be an increase in the use of social networking sites or websites during the event and employers should have a clear policy regarding web use including what is and what’s not acceptable usage. If employers wish to monitor internet usage then the data protection regulations require them to make this clear to all staff.

It won’t be practical for every business to accommodate flexible working practices – and not everyone will want to for the World Cup, however for those that are able to adapt it’s important to ensure you have the right policies in place and current legislation is adhered to. And with the World Cup only happening every four years, what have you got to lose?