HR during the World Cup

Written by Martha Mitchell
20 October, 2022

HR and Staff Issues at Qatar 2022


The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off on the 20th of November with a month of football until the final on Sunday 18th December.  The men’s football World Cup is expected to attract an audience of 5 billion – it’s a huge event.  With England’s men having reached the semi-final of Euro 2020 and the Lioness ‘bringing it home’ at Euro 2022, all eyes will be on England.  Unless you support another team!  How should you manage your staff in light of the upcoming World Cup?

With England and Wales in the same group, there are some tasty ties!  Here, we look at some of the burning questions employers have on their minds: What do you do if your employee comes into work hungover?  To: are you obliged to give any time off for fixtures if asked?

Do I have to give my team time off to watch a match?

No but employers can consider other options! Employers are not obliged to give staff time off to watch World Cup matches. However, businesses should have a plan in place to deal with requests for leave or an increase in sickness and absence during the tournament.  If unmanaged, the duration of the tournament could be rife with absenteeism and last minute holiday requests. 

The World Cup presents a valuable opportunity to engage with staff and improve team morale.  There are a number of ways to manage requests from employees, such as permitting annual leave, unpaid leave, shift swaps, flexible working, or even popping the match on in the office.

Why not try:

  1. Annual Leave: perhaps allow half day annual leave; or even two half days to watch two games.
  2. Unpaid Leave: grant everyone a half-day unpaid leave (for example) to take as they see fit.
  3. Temporary Flexible Working: vary hours to ensure that the staff member still completes their weekly hours but it allows them to watch a match.
  4. Shift Swaps: communicate clearly in advance who is responsible for finding a person to swap shifts with and watch out for any shift swaps adding to weekly working hours!

Any changes to working time should be communicated unequivocally and confirmed in writing to erratic confusion and to avoid setting any precedent for future sporting events. 

Why not ask all employees in advance if there is a particular game they want to watch, or if they know they are likely to be hung-over the day after a game and require a shift swap the day after?  Of course, not all requests of this nature may be operationally exercisable but the key is to be fair and consistent in accepting or rejecting paid annual leave requests of this nature – a scheme such as first come, first served might suit.

If you do allow staff time off, ensure that your approach is not limited to England matches and supporters, but instead applies to all nationalities to avoid risks of potential discrimination.

TOP TIP: Treat all nationalities the same!

What if I think my employee is hungover at work?

Some matches kick off pretty late, so having employees calling in sick the next day, or turning up for work hungover or drunk, may be a consequence.

This should be regarded as a serious matter. You should be clear to staff at the outset of the tournament that you will be monitoring absences and that absence on relevant match days may be regarded with suspicion and that disciplinary action could be considered where there is clear evidence that the sickness is not genuine.

Other deterrents include making it known that you will require a fit note or other medical evidence, whatever the length of the absence. You should also carry out an immediate return to work interview and ask lots of detailed questions about the absence to help you ascertain whether the employee is telling the truth.  

Where an employee is intoxicated or hungover to the extent that they cannot work, you can send them home from work.

I’m concerned that my employee is watching the football instead of working!

If employees work mainly on computers, there may be some suspicion that staff are watching matches when they should be working.  It may even be that they are working but that having it on in the background affects their focus.

Monitoring computer usage is largely down to your managers but you are able to:

  • Inform all staff in advance that you can see their computer usage (and that you will be monitoring it);
  • Check-in on homeworkers via call or zoom more regularly
  • Monitor productivity during match days
  • Ask office-based staff to show you their internet history
  • Circulate your internet / IT Policy and remind staff that they are not permitted to watch games during office hours.

If you have sufficient suspicion you can progress to an investigation and disciplinary hearing, if desired.

Alternatively, if staff are permitted to watch matches at work, during work hours, bear in mind the impact this could have on internet speeds.

If a significant number of employees stream a match to their computer or other devices it could cause the internet to grind to a halt or impact productivity levels.

Can we host a sweepstake?

Yes! There is nothing legally wrong with hosting a sweepstake at work, however, bear in mind that not all religions partake in gambling (however trivial).  Do not force the sweepstake on any employee and respect each person’s choice to participate.

Should we allow flags and shirts in the workplace?

Deciding whether to allow employees to wear football shirts to work, or put up flags and banners, is largely up to the employer, so long as regard is given to any health and safety issues.

It is advisable to have some guidelines on what is deemed to be appropriate and acceptable. Treat everyone consistently, so any football shirt should be permitted.

Can we host a party at work?

If customers or suppliers are invited to the workplace to watch a match, check insurance policies to ensure they cover such events. Employers should also keep in mind any obligations under health and safety law and occupiers’ liability legislation, particularly if there are dangerous areas that guests could wander into and be injured.

If there is an event for staff, either at the workplace or externally, staff should be reminded of the behaviour expected of them. If necessary, a warning not to drink too much alcohol should also be issued. Such events are considered an extension of the workplace and employers may well remain liable for employees’ conduct. 

Let us help cure your HR Headaches 

Speak to Employment Law Solutions if you have any queries about your current staff or if you wish to make changes to your current contracts.  We can answer any query in regards to your employees and a dedicated lawyer would love to review your current documentation for you, free of charge.

We offer 24/7, 365 guidance with a mission to help you get on with doing what you do best – running your business. Protecting your business will always be our main priority. Call us today or get in contact by email for a free consultation on the issues you are facing.

Call us on 01270 781 006

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