Eighty-two per cent of businesses have not planned for the potential overload on their IT systems as staff are expected to follow the World Cup during work hours, a new survey has found.

The anonymous online survey of 352 UK businesses by law firm DLA Piper in May found that just 18 per cent had plans to issue guidance to their staff on acceptable email and internet usage during the football season. Eleven per cent of firms plan to allow their staff to watch matches online during work hours.

Tim Marshall, employment partner at DLA Piper, said: “With so many World Cup matches scheduled to take place during working hours and due to be streamed online, we were quite surprised to discover that relatively few employers had plans to issue guidance to their staff on acceptable usage to ensure IT systems aren’t compromised due to the amount of traffic going through them.

“Equally, we all know the email jokes and virals that come with any major event, and if they contain material that could be deemed offensive, then employers could be in for a headache.”

Marshall recommended that firms should clearly set out their internet and email policies to employees, stating clearly in which situations rules may be relaxed, and to what to extent.

Meanwhile, many companies (51 per cent) are planning to offer flexibility in working conditions for employees to watch the matches. However, only 19 per cent would offer flexibility for all games, and 32 per cent for England matches.

Most companies were planning to allow staff to leave work early or watch TV in communal areas during working hours (59 per cent for both). Other initiatives include allowing staff to swap shifts (35 per cent) or to take unpaid time off (25 per cent).

Employees who do not want to watch the matches, however, will miss out, as 76 per cent of firms said they would not offer them flexible working privileges.