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Guidance for employers and managing employees ahead of the Football World Cup 2022

Given the Football World Cup’s popularity as a global sporting event (and the involvement of the Wales and England national teams) it is advisable for employers to take time to prepare effective policies and procedures prior to its commencement. The competition is scheduled to take place between November 21 and December 18 this year.

Before the previous World Cup in 2018, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (‘Acas’) gave advice to employers on how they could approach the employment challenges that could arise in light of the competition. These guidelines remain relevant in 2022.

Pertinent advice for employers to bear in mind includes the following points:

  • Time Off – It is suggested that employers, where possible, offer flexible working options around this period. There should also be acknowledgment that it may sometimes be difficult for staff to book time off in advance. Acas has previously suggested that employers may seek to allow staff to take their lunch breaks during match times. Taking this further, employers could choose to screen matches in the workplace.
    • Note that it is advisable that a consistent approach to other major sporting events should be taken when granting leave. Not everyone will be interested in the Football World Cup. Such persons may prefer other sports and are likely to expect similar treatment when their preferred sporting tournament appears on the sporting calendar.
    • Similarly, to ensure a harmonious working environment, it is important for management to set employees’ expectations as to whether they are likely to be allowed time off work or not. It may be pertinent to inform workers that there is no legal requirement for employers to give time off for any sporting fixture.
  • Social Media – Employers may wish to remind their employees of their social media policies as there could be a spike in social media use throughout the World Cup period.
    • Additionally, employers may want to train and/or instruct their human resources teams on appropriate and effective employee monitoring and enforcement of the social media policy during this time.
    • Despite the above, businesses should remain mindful to avoid imposing unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on social media usage. If disproportionate restrictions are imposed, this could weaken employee morale, without any benefit to the company in terms of protecting its productivity or reputation.
  • Sickness Absence and Attendance – Employers should be aware that sickness absence and late attendance may increase throughout this period. It may therefore be advisable for absence and attendance to be more carefully monitored.
    • Employers should remind employees of their procedures for reporting sickness. If there is no set procedure for this, one should be put in place and communicated to employees.
    • Additionally, employers should remind their workforce of their policy on unauthorised absence. Normally this will mean that failing to turn up for work or leaving early without a reasonable explanation is a disciplinary matter.
  • Alcohol and Substance Misuse – Employers should review their substance misuse policy and restate its provisions to employees. If there is no policy on substance misuse, one should be drafted and relayed to staff.
    • For example, if there is a policy on not drinking alcohol during office hours it would be good practice to remind staff of this so they are clear on the rules and are not tempted to breach them, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
  • Employee Interactions – Employees may become emotionally invested in the competition. This could lead to verbal and/or physical altercations.
    • As employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment they should ensure they have an anti-bullying and harassment policy and that this is up-to-date. Its provisions, and the consequences of any breach of policy, should be clearly communicated to staff.
    • Furthermore, supposed ‘friendly’ banter can be perceived by some as discriminatory. An employee could feel harassed, especially if someone is making comments about people or players from a different nation. Again. increased awareness of the potential for this to cause issues in the workplace should be facilitated via communication of the business’ discrimination and harassment policy to staff.
  • Optimism and Opportunity – Finally, employers should recognise that the Football World Cup, rather than representing a danger to effective workplace interactions, can be seen as an excellent opportunity for employees and colleagues to connect and for the business to facilitate and embed good working practices. It can provide the real prospect of enhancing teamwork and camaraderie by demonstrating an organisation’s flexibility and support for its employee’s interests, thereby improving worker morale and productivity.