Football fever: World Cup 2022 and the potential employment impact
The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday 20th November and many employers may be anticipating a drop in employee productivity as a result, particularly if the England team reach the latter stages of the competition!
Due to the time difference, matches are likely to fall during working hours, with start times varying between 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm. For example, both England and Wales face Iran in the group stages during typical office working hours - England at 1pm on Monday 21st November and Wales at 10am on Friday 25th November. It may be worthwhile for employers to remind employees in advance of such games that they should not be watching the football whilst they are working, particularly if employees work from home. Employees’ attention could be drawn to any relevant Company IT Policy which sets out guidelines regarding appropriate internet use in the workplace.
Somewhat luckily for employers, the high-profile clash of England v Wales in the group stages falls outside of working hours, kicking off at 7pm on Tuesday 29th November however this may mean there are some sore heads in the office the next day! With this in mind, employers may wish to remind employees of any internal policies relating to unauthorised absence and/or appropriate use of sick leave in such scenarios.
As shown by football tournaments in recent years, competitive sport can bring out the worst in some individuals. As such, employees should be reminded of the need for appropriate behaviour throughout the competition, with their attention directed to any Company Equality and Diversity policies. Employees should be reminded that other staff may support other national teams and any hostile or racist remarks about a particular country or team will not be tolerated. The risks of such behaviour are not confined to the workplace and inappropriate behaviour outside of work can create a real risk of reputational damage for an employer. This is demonstrated in the case of Post Office v Liddiard, where the Court of Appeal ruled that an employee’s involvement in football hooliganism brought his employer into disrepute and that his dismissal as a result of this behaviour was fair.
Notwithstanding the above, employers may wish to focus on the benefits the World Cup could bring to the workplace rather than any potential pitfalls. Although a drop in productivity amongst employees may occur, the World Cup can provide employers with a useful means of boosting morale and engagement amongst its staff. It could create opportunities to allow staff to bond which in turn could promote better teamwork. For example, employers could hold viewings of key matches for all staff or hold a sweepstake for those who want to engage in some friendly competition. If a staff-wide viewing of a match is not feasible, an alternative may be to stream some of the key matches on mute in certain areas of the office e.g. in the staffroom or reception. In a recent survey conducted by Acas in September 2022, when employees were asked what the main things were that kept them in their job, ‘relationship with colleagues’ and ‘feeling valued’ were in the top 5 most common responses. Employees may therefore appreciate these token gestures, and as a result may be more likely to be engaged in their current role.
Rollits’ dedicated employment team are well-placed to provide both employers and individuals with advice on how best to deal with any employment related issues arising as a result of the World Cup or otherwise.