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Germany is suffering from World Cup fever: Where’s your doctor’s note?

Melanie Pölking 01.07.2014
Loftikantin Annika guckt Fußball im Büro
If you’ve been feeling feverish lately, you’re not alone. “World Cup fever” has been spreading, slowly but surely. The symptoms are always the same. They occur suddenly and unexpectedly whenever the German national team, or sometimes also other national teams, have a match scheduled. The fever is so strong that those who have caught it can no longer do their work. The good news: the symptoms are guaranteed to disappear the day after the particular match. No medication needed. However, there are still risks and side effects.

Calling in sick for the World Cup – have you ever thought about it? Many people do. Researchers at keyfacts Onlineforschung GmbH wanted to know more and investigated this phenomenon. It interviewed 1300 workers on the topic of “skipping work for a soccer match.” The result is astonishing: Extrapolated across Germany’s population, around 1.4 million of the 31 million working people were planning on calling in sick during the World Cup.

Why is this figure so high? Well, the kick-off times in South America can pose a problem, not just for shift workers but also for people who have to get up very early in the morning. Many see calling in sick as the only answer to this tricky situation. But be careful! If the boss hears about it, he or she is entitled to ask for a doctor’s note from day one – even if you usually don’t need one for the first three days of absence. The World Cup is no license for foolishness. The only ones who might get away with acting rather foolishly are the pretty samba dancers in the stands. Coming in late or leaving early can be just as risky. The boss can issue a written warning for this.   

Clearly a foul at work

Another thing that’s obvious: You don’t have a legal right to watch the game while at work! However, many employers like to keep their staff happy by providing screens that allow them to follow the action. A lovely idea that is also a great team building exercise. Alcohol, though, is a definite no-no. Even if there is no general ban on alcohol in the workplace, work must always come first. You still get the chance to meet colleagues you didn’t know before. And if your boss provides a TV or a screen, you are on the safe side. Because anyone switching on a TV without the express permission of the boss again risks a written warning. But there is no law against consulting the Internet to find out the latest scores – provided you are allowed to use the internet for non-work related purposes.

Soccer fans who want to be especially clever might also resort to the good old radio ... which brings them into a grey area as far as employment law is concerned. Even though many workplaces might have a radio playing all day, it usually does so in the background. Which is exactly the crux of the matter. An exciting World Cup game might lead to people not concentrating properly on their work.

And if you have such a serious case of World Cup fever that you can’t possible miss a game? There is nothing wrong with football fans asking for their shifts to be changed beforehand. If all else fails, you might have to sacrifice a few vacation days. Your employer can only refuse a vacation request for operational reasons. So all it takes is a bit of careful planning. Which will be worth it in the end. We’ll cross our fingers that you only suffer a mild outbreak of World Cup fever. And next week, we’ll be telling you all about the dreaded World Cup acne. ;)