The FIFA World Cup 2022 has been surrounded with controversy with regards to host Qatar’s poor human rights and LGBTQA record, but although there are some people who may boycott the tournament altogether, there will be many who will still be watching to cheer their team along.
As the tournament kicks off, employers might find themselves with an influx of holiday or time off requests and there may well be an increase in sickness or unauthorised absence.
So how do employers stay on the ball and prevent unwanted HR issues arising before the first whistle is blown? In this article we discuss a few ways to help employers get off to a winning start.
Requesting time off
Most employers usually grant leave requests on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, and as this is already a busy period in the run up to Christmas, any leave or time off requests should be dealt with consistently and fairly. If you allow employees time off to follow the home nations, you must also consider other employees who wish to follow their national team, or you could be at risk of discrimination complaints. It is also worth remembering that not everyone will be interested in watching the World Cup and some employees might prefer time off to go Christmas shopping or for festive celebrations.
Consider flexible working
Given that the games will be kicking off between 10am and 7pm UK time, employers could consider a degree of flexibility on a temporary basis to allow employees to arrive in work a little later or leave a little earlier to catch the games, providing they make up any lost time. You may also consider allowing employees to swap shifts so there is no drop in productivity.
How do I handle an employee phoning in sick during the tournament?
We quite often assume one-off absences are not genuine. However, don’t naturally assume an employee phoning in sick is watching the World Cup. Remind employees of your absence policy and deal with any absences in the usual way. If you do see a pattern occurring throughout the tournament, conduct a return-to-work interview to ascertain the reason for the absence and take any necessary disciplinary action.
Can I allow employees to watch the tournament during working hours
The comradery of sporting events can be great for team moral which in turn can help boost productivity. However, it is down to employer discretion as to whether they screen games in the staff room or allow employees to listen to them on the radio or internet. A risk assessment should also be carried out to identify any health and safety issues this may cause, and a valid licence should also be in place. An alternative solution could be to provide World Cup activities in the workplace such as decorating the office, or a sweepstake to get employees involved to boost the morale of those who have to remain in work.
Watch out for ‘harmless banter’
Employees should be mindful of comments made when referring to a colleague’s national team. What one employee judges to be ‘harmless banter’, another employee may perceive as inappropriate or even offensive. Refer to bullying and harassment policies and remind employees of their code of conduct.
What do I do if an employee comes to work under the influence of alcohol?
Sporting tournaments and increased alcohol consumption usually go hand in hand, and this is particularly important for employees whose work involves driving or operating machinery. Remind employees of your alcohol and drugs policy and treat any instances of misuse in the usual way by following company disciplinary rules.
Above all, it is important to have robust policies in place to manage lateness, sickness and absence ahead of the tournament. Let employees know what is expected of them by communicating these policies with any special arrangements beforehand, not forgetting those who are remote working.