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23rd November 2022

Guidance to Employers ahead of World Cup

football on pitch

The FIFA World Cup kicks off on Sunday the 20th of November 2022, lasting just under a month, with the final on Sunday 18th of December 2022.

Global sporting events such as the World Cup or the Olympics present a challenge for employers wanting to maintain the appropriate staffing levels without stopping their entire workforce from enjoying the tournament.

This year the World Cup is taking place in Qatar which is 3 hours ahead of GMT. As most of the fixtures will be held during regular 9am-5pm working hours, employers may face new challenges in managing employees throughout this time.

During past tournaments, the central issues facing employers have been in relation to:

  • Requests for annual leave;
  • Sickness absence;
  • Punctuality and leaving work early;
  • Discrimination against non-English employees;
  • Drinking or being under the influence of alcohol while at work;
  • Excessive use of the internet for personal browsing.

In response to these issues, ACAS have recently published guidance to employers as to steps they can take to avoid potential headaches.

The common theme arising out of ACAS advice is the importance for employers of adopting a flexible approach to what is an infrequent event.

It advisable that employers have all the necessary policies and procedures in place before the start of the tournament. We would recommend that following procedures are communicated to employees either within the staff handbook or in the form of standalone policies:

  • Sickness Absence Policy
  • Alcohol and Drugs Policy
  • Annual Leave Policy
  • Electronic Information and Communications Systems Policy
  • Social Media Policy

Employers should be conscious applying policies consistently and should remember that, however unlikely it may sound, not everyone likes football!

In respect of the specific polices mentioned above employers should consider the following:

Annual leave

An employer’s annual leave policy should give guidance as to how to book time off. Employers might consider adopting a more flexible when authorising leave during this period, albeit confirming that this will be a temporary arrangement.

Employers may also consider allowing employees to work on a more flexible basis, either starting the day earlier or working through lunch breaks. Employers with shift patterns may also consider relaxing their policy in respect of swapping swifts.

Sickness absence

It is critical that an employer consistently applies its sick leave policy during the tournament. Levels of attendance should be monitored and any breach of the policy should be result in formal disciplinary proceedings.

Use of social networking sites and websites

A possible by-product of the tournament may be an increased use of social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

If not already in place, employers should ensure that they have a clear policy regarding use of social media in the workplace. If employers are monitoring internet usage then the data protection regulations require them to make it clear that it is happening to all employees.

Drinking or being under the influence at work

As mentioned above, considering that majority of matches are being played in the evening, rather than drinking during work hours, a more likely concern is employees still being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they return to work the next day.

Employees should therefore be reminded that anyone under the influence of alcohol at work will be subject to disciplinary action.

Accordingly, achieving the correct balance can be quiet a delicate matter. Any employers struggling in this regard are encouraged to contact a member of the Lighthouse Employment Law team, who would be happy to discuss the matter in detail and draft any appropriate policies you may require – 0300 303 5228.

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