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The World Cup 2022 – Dealing with employee demands to watch the games

The World Cup 2022 will take over the nation as teams get underway in the competition. The Competition kicks off on the 20th of November 2022 and continues up to the final on the 18th of December.

It is being held in Qatar and kick-off times for these games will vary in the UK between 10 am and 7 pm.

The World Cup is a major sporting event for many employees, who may want to follow their favourite team and enjoy the occasion. Some employees may want to book annual leave to attend matches in person, others may want to use the internet or their phones to stay updated on the matches and results while in the workplace, depending on the times or shifts that they work.

Unlike the Euro 2020 competition, the kick-off times are possibly not as easy to manage.

Employers need to consider how to manage employees wishing to watch matches and must ensure fairness and consistency amongst all employees.

We have highlighted below the key workplace issues employers need to be aware of as they balance the wishes of their employees with the needs of continuity of service and productivity of their businesses.

Key workplace issues may include:

Time off –   Employers are unlikely to be in a position to grant all requests for time off to watch the matches. A large number of employees may request time off to watch key matches and these requests will compete with other holiday requests. Employers should deal with requests for annual leave in the same way as they deal with requests for leave during other periods of high demand, such as during school holidays, the Christmas period or other major sporting events.

Employers should not discriminate when deciding which matches to grant time off for. If time off is to be granted to watch key matches, it should also be granted to watch key matches involving other nations so that employees of different nationalities can follow their team.

Internet use – It may be worthwhile for employers to remind employees of their rules in relation to internet use and that those rules apply to the following event too. Employers should also consider setting out their approach to the use of personal mobile devices to watch matches during working hours. Employers should treat any form of excessive internet use at work, in a consistent way, to help to avoid allegations of unfair or discriminatory treatment.

Drinking or being under the influence at work – If an employee attends work under the influence of alcohol after watching a match, or is unfit to work due to being hung-over, the employer should deal with the matter in line with its policy on alcohol use and its disciplinary procedure. It should treat drunkenness at work in these circumstances as it would any other incidence of drunkenness or unfitness for work as a result of previous alcohol consumption.

Sickness absence/poor time-keeping – There is potential for major sporting events such as The World Cup, Olympic Games or Wimbledon, to lead to reporting late for work after staying up late to watch the match the night before and increased unauthorised absence, including non-genuine sickness absence. Therefore, employers may wish to put specific rules and procedures in place during the relevant period. For example, employees who are off sick, other than those who are already known to be on long-term sickness absence, could be required to notify their absence to a named specified senior person. This would help to make employees aware that the employer is closely monitoring sickness absence during the period. Employers should be careful not to assume automatically that sickness absence during The World Cup matches is not genuine. Normal investigation and following a fair procedure should still apply.

In summary, therefore, some of the questions that employers may need to ask, in advance of scheduled games are:

  • Can you allow employees to watch the games at work? And if so how would this work?
  • If you show the England and Wales games, will you allow other employees who support different countries to watch their games?
  • Will you allow employees to keep up with scores online on their phone or work computers?
  • Is there a way to ensure employees who aren’t football fans don’t miss out on these benefits also?
  • Will you allow flexible working, enabling employees to come in later or leave early and allow them to make the time up at some other date? If so, can you apply this fairly across your organisation to all employees?

If you would like further guidance on how to manage employees wishing to watch their teams’ games or any other HR topic, please contact Clover HR on 0330 175 6601 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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