The football World Cup takes place in Qatar between 20 November and 18 December 2022, and many workers across the UK will want to follow the tournament. However, with many of the matches taking place during the working day or on a weekday evening, there are potential implications in the workplace. Here are our top tips for employers:

  1. See the tournament as an opportunity: Handled correctly, embracing the World Cup could help with employee engagement without having a detrimental impact on productivity. Actively addressing how the tournament sits along work commitments means that a balance can be struck between getting work done without the football acting as a distraction.
  1. Be flexible: Where possible, and within reason, allow employees to adjust their hours or place of work to accommodate them watching certain matches. This may necessitate longer or later lunch breaks, adjusting start and finish times, tweaking rotas, or switching work from home days. The requirements for approval should be made clear, as should whether (and if so, how) any lost hours should be made up, or taken out of annual leave entitlements.
  1. Accommodate annual leave: Managers should be prepared for short notice requests for (or cancellations of) annual leave, particularly in the later stages of the tournament, and be timely, understanding and consistent when considering such requests, even if they fall outside any usual holiday approval protocols.
  1. Monitor sickness absence: Absence on days of, or the day after, certain matches may give rise to concerns about whether the sickness is genuine, or has been brought about by e.g. excess alcohol. While employers should not be quick to make assumptions, and a one-off may be tolerated, inappropriate, repeated or regular absences demonstrating a pattern of behaviour may need to be addressed through sickness or, if appropriate, disciplinary policies.
  1. Working from home: Employers inevitably have less visibility and control over staff who are working from home so it would be harder to monitor if they are watching football when they are meant to be working. However, homeworkers and hybrid workers are generally trusted when working remotely, and many are afforded some flexibility over their working patterns. However, any concerns about unauthorised absence or poor performance should be addressed in the ordinary way.
  1. Create a sense of community: Consider whether to make a space available for people to watch matches together, providing scope for networking as well as the game. Employers should also remember staff who are less interested in watching a match, but may nevertheless want to get into the spirit of things, and consider arranging activities linked to football or participating countries.
  1. Beware of discrimination, bullying and harassment risks: Employers should avoid focussing flexibility or events around matches only involving certain countries and be mindful of comments or behaviour that may arise between supporters of different teams or when talking about particular players. Similarly, some workers may object to the tournament’s location based on concerns about gender equality and other social issues. Employers should promote diversity and inclusivity, and endorse a culture of respect, taking proactive steps to addressing any concerns if and as they arise.
  1. Introduce a policy: A policy or statement that sets out the employer’s expectations about what is, and what is not, acceptable during the tournament, any temporary rules in place, and the extent to which arrangements are company-wide, office-wide, or at a manager’s discretion, will help employees and managers alike understand the position. Any policy should be clearly communicated and applied consistently.