The World Cup and other major sporting events can always cause a bit of a headache for employers. On the contrary, it can also be a fantastic way to engage your teams and get them excited. With many of the matches taking place in working hours or on work day evenings, there are potential implications that workplaces need to manage and be aware of.  
Here are our top tips: 
Communicate your stance about employees behaviour and your expectations during the tournament, whatever that is. Providing clarity about boundaries of what is, and is not acceptable during the tournament is key to ensuring that your people know what is expected of them. You can remind them of their responsibilities and the rules you are setting regarding watching matches. It is also a good opportunity to remind them of diversity and inclusion and that all their team mates may not be as interested in the games as they are. 
This could be a key opportunity to bring teams together and celebrate (or commiserate). Screening matches at work, creating a space where people from different parts of the business can be brought together (go the whole hog and decorate it with bunting!), a relaxation of dress codes to allow them to come to work in their England (or other countries) tops, putting on a lunch or snacks for the start of a match or half time are all great initiatives to increase morale and get different teams interacting. It’s a good time to run any competitions or a sweepstake and offer some prizes. 
Be as flexible as you can be to accommodate those who want to want the matches. With the diversity in our workforces, it may mean that people want to watch other matches than only the England matches. If possible, adjust start and finish times, allow for extended breaks and be clear what people need to do to make up for the missed hours while watching a match. Allow people to swap shifts or their days off if you can. Any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved beforehand otherwise it could be chaotic for managers who are expecting people to turn up for work and they arrive 3 hours later. However, if increasing flexibility has an impact on productivity then you may need to make some different decisions. 
Remember, some people might not be bothered about the football so make sure you are consistent and fair to all staff when offering any flexibility. You must not discriminate against staff who have no interest in the football. 
Discrimination and bias 
There is a potential risk for employers relating to discrimination claims arising from the World Cup. 
There has been a lot of controversy with this World Cup being held in Qatar about gender equality, laws concerning the LGBTQ+ community and the treatment of migrant workers. This may mean that some employees may think that their employer and colleagues should not be celebrating it and in doing so support similar views. Promoting diversity and inclusivity, and supporting a culture of respect will impact long term not just during the tournament. It’s important to take proactive steps to address any concerns if, and as, they arise. In addition, any workplace events should be optional, and employees should not be disadvantaged if they do not wish to take part (especially due to their beliefs). 
Being passionate about supporting your home nation can run high during major sporting tournaments, but it is important for employees to understand that ‘banter’ between competing countries and nationalities does not stray into offensive and insensitive remarks about race or nationality. It can be easy for “banter” to cross the line into discrimination and employers have a duty to monitor this and address any instances where it happens. Guidance issued in line with an equal opportunities policy or disciplinary action regarding employee conduct are all reasonable steps employers can take. 
Equally, if employers are making special arrangement for this tournament, they should also consider what they do during women’s tournaments especially as the profile of women’s football is increasing. 
Annual Leave 
You might have an increased number of requests for annual leave, especially at short notice. Your normal rules on authorising leave should apply as outlined in your policy. You must be fair and consistent in your approach ( a first come first served basis is a usual approach), and you must not discriminate or create a precedent which is likely to haunt you in the future. As it’s nearing the end of the calendar year it may be a good opportunity to let your people use up any unused holiday before the year end. However, if individuals do not have enough holiday then it may be worth thinking about flexible options. 
Managing sickness absence 
Normal rules regarding sickness absence will apply and your sickness and absence policy should be operated fairly and consistently for all employees. Attendance levels should be monitored especially relating to short term absence. Continue with return to work interviews so people will know they will have to explain their absence. Genuine absences will still happen throughout the tournament so treat all sickness as genuine until you know different. You can address any patterns throughout the tournament in line with your absence procedure triggers. Hangovers could be an issue if people are watching evening matches and then don’t feel well enough to come into work the next day. Deal with any employee that hasn’t had their holiday approved and then rings in sick. This could be a disciplinary matter (you will need to go through a proper investigation and gather your evidence) especially if you are seeing posts on social media. 
It is also a good opportunity to remind people that some people can be under the influence of drink the morning after a big match meaning either driving to work over the legal limit or being under the influence of alcohol while at work is likely to be a disciplinary matter. 
For any further support, give us a shout and we’ll be happy to advise. 
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