World Cup 2014 'Sickies' to Cost British Economy £4bn
World Cup 2014 'Sickies' to Cost British Economy £4bnReuters

World Cup 2014 is set to cost Britain £4bn in lost productivity as thousands of workers revealed that they intend to pretend they are ill – or 'throwing a sickie' – in a bid to watch their home team play in Brazil.

According to research by employment law specialists ELAS, 13% of the 1,500 surveyed plan on 'throwing a sickie' to watch matches, while overall almost half will be taking planned or unauthorised time off to enjoy the world's most popular sporting event.

"An average of nearly 20 minutes every day might not seem very much, but if over three quarters of the UK's 30 million workers take this time out every day for the duration of the tournament, it quickly adds up," said Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at employment law specialists ELAS, which commissioned the research.

"Taking an average wage of £13 (€14.7, $21.8) per hour, the cost in terms of lost productivity from this time alone is well over £3bn. Combine that with the number of people missing work entirely, even if it's only for one day, and the World Cup could easily cost the economy over £4bn, leaving managers suffering from their own headache.

However, it's not all good news for employers who have managed to rein in staff that are trying to leave their desks, as the survey showed that 85% of all workers 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.

"This event is expected to break all social media records and, while the World Cup is a special occasion and represents an opportunity for bosses to show a bit of flexibility, it's important people don't become too distracted from work, or miss it entirely," said Mooney.

"It's therefore critical that businesses have well-communicated policies in place covering both absences and social media use in the office, so that they don't suffer serious losses."