The World Cup is set to begin in Brazil next week, and it could cost the British economy up to £4 billion ($7.35 billion) in lost productivity as millions of soccer—or football—fans take leave or call in sick to watch matches, according to a new survey.

The survey, which was commissioned by employment law specialists ELAS, finds that 43% of workers will be taking planned or unauthorized time off to enjoy the world’s most popular sporting event, while 13% will take a sick day.

Of those surveyed, 85% of all workers also admitted they would spend an average of 20 minutes each day checking World Cup scores, reading reports and browsing social media for comments on matches during working hours.

“An average of nearly 20 minutes every day might not seem very much, but if over three-quarters of the U.K.’s 30 million workers take this time out every day for the duration of the tournament, it quickly adds up,” says Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at ELAS.

To help prevent worker absenteeism, private medical insurer AXA PPP healthcare recommends the following:

  • consider flexible working hours;
  • apply policies to all employees;
  • communicate your attendance policy;
  • screen key events at work; and
  • have a clear policy in place regarding Internet use.

“Rather than fret about the possible downsides of the upcoming tournament, employers can take positive steps to avoid them by positively engaging with it—for instance, where practicable, adopting a flexible approach to enable fans to follow key events or arranging to screen key fixtures at work,” says Dr. Steve Iley, AXA PPP healthcare’s occupational health director. “And, to avoid resentment, don’t forget to be fair and apply the same approach to everyone in your organization—not just the sports fans.”

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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