World Cup: Fans warned they could be sacked if they pull a sickie to watch a game

Stock image of three friends cheering on England's sports team

If you do this when you’re supposed to be working, beware (Picture: Getty)

There is just a week to go before England play their first World Cup game when they meet Iran in the group stage.

No doubt there will be plenty of people wanting to see the game – but there’s just one problem: it’ll be shown at 1pm on Monday afternoon.

For most of us, that means we’re busy with work and a lunch break probably won’t cover the entire time.

Some might therefore be tempted to invent an illness to take some time away from their desk, especially when others have already taken their annual leave periods.

But it’s a risky strategy, as an employment lawyer warns it could constitute “gross misconduct” that could get you fired.

A fan experienced this firsthand at Euro 2020 last year.

Digital content producer Nina Farooqi, 37, pretended to be ill so she could travel from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, to London for the semi-finals at Wembley as England played Denmark.

Football fan Nina Farooqi received a call from her employer as she drove to work the next morning

Football fan Nina Farooqi received a call from her employer as she drove to work the next morning (Photo: Nina Farooqi)

She was surprised when her boss saw her on TV – and then called her to tell her not to bother coming back in.

Andrew Knorpel, consulting counsel at Richard Nelson LLP, said anyone doing the same would be putting their job at risk, although the temptation could be great as many of the games are played within working hours due to the time difference between the UK and Qatar.

He said: “With England coming naggingly close to winning the European Championship last year, the anticipation for next week’s World Cup will only grow.

“Although many England fans may be concerned about missing the team’s first group stage game, we would encourage them to have an open discussion with their employers about their working arrangements for the day.

“Where possible, many companies can offer extended lunch breaks or even remote work for the afternoon and we would encourage this.

“If this cannot be granted, staff should consider taking annual leave rather than taking sick leave.

“If an employer believes that their employee has called in sick and it is not genuine, they can investigate the case and take disciplinary action for unauthorized absence.”

Labor lawyer Andrew Knorpel in a professional portrait photo

Labor lawyer Andrew Knorpel warned of the risks (Image: Richard Nelson LLP)

If an employee lies or exaggerates an illness or injury in order to get time off work when in fact they are fine, this would be gross misconduct and could be grounds for dismissal from their employer.

Should the workers be granted special permission to watch the game, Mr. Knorpel encouraged them to act responsibly.

Fans who return to work later that day under the influence of alcohol or otherwise do anything that could bring their employer into disrepute could also be at risk of being fired.

Football superfan Nina told the Telegraph after it happened to her last year: “It’s mixed feelings: we’re in the final, I’m still that high but I’ve also lost my job.

“There’s a bit of regret, no one wants to be fired, but then I would have hated the regret of missing out too. I would do it again.”

Charles Taylor, director of her former company Composite Prime, said: “It is an exciting time for everyone in England and if we had the opportunity we would have encouraged attendance at such an important football match.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion, our employee lied and took a day’s sick leave to attend the football game on Wednesday 7th July. This was against their contract of employment and so we had no choice but to take appropriate action.

“As a company, we value honesty and integrity and do not tolerate employees taking advantage of our policies. Like many companies across the county, our staff will have Monday morning off, hopefully recovering from the celebration of an English victory.

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Justin Scacco

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