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Biggest sickie in history predicted; Charles Russell uses 'bacon buttie' strategy; A&O sits on fence
Lawyers were joining in World Cup fever in the only way they know how last week, with a flurry of press releases spelling out the employment law implications of too much football-related fun. Bosses would be liable for workers that came to work "high on a heady cocktail of national pride and alcohol", warned Bevan Ashford. Meanwhile, Trowers & Hamlins suggested a special World Cup 2002 'warning policy' (no doubt 'cut out and keep') to let staff know how they would handle "unauthorised absences or instances of alcohol abuse". Such cheerless advice came in the week when even Government ministers last week urged tolerance on the part of bosses who are faced with the biggest sickie in history. According to research, as many as seven million football fans plan to take time off work through fair means or foul. So what will law firms be doing - if anything - for those football-mad associates set on watching England take on their arch rivals Argentina on 7 June. It all depends, said a Bevan Ashford spokesman. "They'll have to clear it with their line manager, and as long as there's adequate cover in the office, those who have an interest can take the time out to see it," he added. It is a far cry from the suggestion made by one of the firm's employment lawyers, Julian Hoskins. He advised employers not to be "heavy-handed" and perhaps put on World Cup breakfasts with "complimentary coffee and croissants" for those early-morning matches. At Trowers & Hamlins games will be screened in one of their client suites. Staff can watch the matches provided they have the say-so of their heads of department and there are no client obligations. "We know that it's a big event and we take the view that it's better to have them in here watching it rather than them wandering off all over EC3," said managing partner David Biggerstaff. Charles Russell sounded considerably more welcoming. The firm said that it will be offering "bacon butties" for any staff who want to see England v Nigeria, which kicks off at the unreasonable time of 7.30am on 12 June. What if fans wanted to recreate that 'on terrace' feel down the pub? "We operate a policy of trust, and so if they want to spend their lunchtime drinking in the pub then that's fine," said Andrea Ridley, Charles Russell's human resources officer. "But we're sure that most people would rather be in-house with all their mates." The firm plans to screen all of the England games. Allen & Overy (A&O) - never a firm to miss a marketing opportunity - was keen to point out the diplomatic sensitivity of the World Cup for the truly global law firm. A spokesman said: "We have offices in about 25 different countries, and as a truly international law firm, A&O wishes success to every one of the teams in those offices - we don't have an office in Brazil, by the way." A&O is making no special arrangements and will be leaving it up to the individual's discretion.