The FIFA World Cup 2022 is set to kick off in Qatar on 20th November 2022 and will take place until 18th December 2022. With both England and Wales taking part, there will no doubt be many people eager to watch the tournament. Not everyone is a fan, however, for those who are, employers are faced with a dilemma.
On the one hand, employers may be concerned about their employees’ work especially if the game takes place during your normal working hours, but then it may also be an opportunity to boost morale in the workplace.
The most recent international football tournament was the Euro 2020, which saw England go all the way to the final. There was a petition, signed by 300,000 people, calling for the day off, as well as many people calling in sick after the tense play off, which ultimately saw Italy be victorious. It is expected, with the upcoming tournament, that businesses across the UK may see an influx in employees either battling for holiday leave or simply calling in sick the day after the match. So, what can employers do about it?
It is important for you to communicate with your staff what your intentions are in relation to the forthcoming games. The first England game is set to take place on Monday 21st November at 1pm, which for many, is during their normal working hours.
One way employers could accommodate the game is to consider flexibility. This may be offering a one-off extended lunch, whereby employees can watch the match. Another option for employers is to offer other kinds of flexible working, allowing employees to either come in earlier or later, providing they work their set daily hours. The practical implications will vary from one business to another, but communicating these arrangements ahead of time will no doubt be appreciated by your staff who are football fans, and hopefully minimise any issues that may occur during the match.
When it comes to holiday requests, either for the day of the match or day after, line managers should still operate on a first come first serve basis, to ensure the business needs of the company are still met. If you decide to place a limit on the number of employees allowed to take leave at any one time, be clear in advance. However, keep in mind that not all holiday requests will be to watch the football, and therefore, you will need to treat all requests fairly.
Employers should consider any discrimination issues that may arise. For example, if you only offer flexibility/grant requests to take time off for a particular nation’s match, this may disadvantage employees who support other teams. Race is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore all employees must be treated equally.
If you have a remote/hybrid working policy, you may be worried about your employees watching the game whilst working. Whilst the first England match will fall during most people’s preferred lunch break, depending on the length of the lunch breaks, it may go over or might be difficult for workers to be productive for the rest of the day.
An option for employers is to propose ways to keep in touch with their remote workers to ensure they back to work and being productive following the match.
What if someone ‘pulls a sickie’?
There is no statutory right to time off to watch a football match, and so some employees who do not have the day off, or do not have a flexible working policy at their place of work may consider ‘pulling a sickie’. What can employers do if this is the case? This is a difficult issue and an employer needs to be careful not to jump to any conclusions.
However, it is important to note that any unauthorised absences from work or unexplained sickness leave could result in disciplinary action being taken.
It is important to create an equal balance between considering your employees’ needs and ensuring that the workplace remains fair, professional, and the work gets completed.
Can we help further?
Should you face any issues with your employees during football season or if you have any other HR/employment law related matter, please contact James Johnson, Alexandra Bullmore or Katie Bullimore in the employment team.