World Cup 2022 – Guide for Employers Tackling HR Needs

world cup hr

World Cup 2022 – Guide for Employers Tackling HR Needs

In this article, Senior HR Consultant, Claire McGuinness discusses the return of the World Cup and how HR can manage this within the workplace.

Now that the FIFA Men’s World Cup has kicked off with 32 nations competing to take home the prize. The tournament is a fantastic opportunity for employees to enjoy watching players from around the world compete for this footballing prize.  

There are, of course, a number of practical considerations for employers over the coming weeks. We explore them below and offer our tips on how best to manage this whilst enabling those who want to follow it, to do so with minimal impact on their work

Allowing time to watch

Employers should decide what approach they are going to take when it comes to allowing employees to watch the games.  For some, they may allow staff to take a few hours off to watch some of the matches and make up the time afterwards (which will be relatively easy for anyone who can work flexibly) and others may put up a screen at work for the key matches.  Or employers may require employees to take annual leave (or a combination of these).

Matches during working hours

Kick-off times vary, however a number of games will be played during business hours. Staff are likely going to want to follow the action in one way or another, and the options available to them should be discussed beforehand. These can include: 

  • A manager or a designated employee could follow the match, and make staff aware of how it is progressing 
  • A TV could be placed in the staff room for staff to watch games during their break (break times may need to be rearranged or lengthened by prior arrangement with an agreement to make up the time later that day/week/month)
  • A radio could be switched to coverage of matches and put on quietly in the office 
  • Employees may be permitted to follow updates using personal mobiles 
  • They could even be allowed to follow it using their work computer

Employers that are worried about this being too distracting should consider discussing how this will be managed with their employees, and if there are any compromises that may be made that satisfy both parties.

In extreme cases, the above may not be suitable. If this is the case, employers should make this known and be clear about why.

Multiple annual leave requests

Employers should treat all requests fairly. Adopting a ‘first-come-first granted’ approach is relatively straightforward to administer and is objectively fair. But you may also have to put limits on the number of people from each department/team who can be absent at the same time.

For those wanting time off, processes for submitting annual leave requests should be clearly outlined in organisational policies and employees should be reminded of these rules. This may cause frustration for those wanting annual leave for different reasons, so processes must be applied fairly.  Dealing with absence requests fairly and consistently and making efforts to accommodate those wanting to keep up with the footballing news, should help to avoid any problems such as unexpected absences.

Bullying and harassment

World Cups are often revered for their ability to promote a sense of fandom and national pride, however, passions must not be allowed to get out of hand, and the workplace should remain a welcoming and safe environment for all.

Employers should also be wary of staff making offensive remarks (that may be, for example, sexist or racist) during the tournament, and ensure that the workplace remains free from banter that could qualify as harassment or discrimination, through reminders of rules in place.  Employers should ensure that there is an appropriate grievance reporting procedure in place and that instances of harassment are handled seriously.


There are potential discrimination issues for employers to consider. If you only offer flexibility/or grant requests to take time off during a particular nation’s matches, this may disadvantage employees who support other teams. Race is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 so, if for example, you turn down requests from workers who are Polish nationals or have Polish origins, but grant requests to English or Welsh fans, this is likely to amount to race discrimination, so the decision for who gets to watch should be made fairly.  

Managing sickness absence

A survey last year by Perkbox found that 40% of men have pulled a sickie to watch a sports game at home; whilst 41% of employees claim they watch sports during their working hours.

Employers may want to inform staff that attendance levels will be monitored during the tournament, to deter those who may be thinking of taking a day off anyway. Making employees aware that any unauthorised absences will be investigated on their return can also be a deterrent. 

The starting point is that if an employee calls in sick, you must treat their absence as genuine unless you have evidence that it isn’t. So, provided they have complied with your sickness absence procedure, you should treat them in the same way as you normally would. This includes paying them SSP (if they are eligible) and complying with any contractual rights they have to sick pay. 

You can’t assume an employee’s absence on a match day isn’t genuine, even if you’ve previously turned down their request to take that day off. If you are suspicious, ask the employee for details of their incapacity, when it started, whether they sought medical advice etc. And, once they’ve returned to work you should conduct a back-to-work interview, even if they’ve only taken a day off. It’s reasonable to ask the employee to explain any inconsistencies between the reason they gave you over the phone for their absence and their observed behaviour (such as posting pictures of them celebrating the match when they’ve claimed to have a 24-hour sickness bug). 

Managing alcohol

Alcohol and sporting events, for many, go hand in hand. A clear alcohol policy is needed, notifying employees of expectations, and warning them that breaking these rules could lead to disciplinary action.


It may seem commendable that people come into work despite having the worst hangover – however, if this impacts their ability to work, it will result in decreased productivity regardless. If someone is hungover and still clearly inebriated, having them in to make up the numbers is not worth the risk.  Decide clearly what your policies regarding alcohol and hangovers should be and make sure the policy is enforced.

Nip it in the bud

Having the right policies and procedures in place is vital and it is helpful to nip potential issues in the bud by recirculating any relevant policies.  Warning staff in advance that you will treat harassment/bullying seriously in accordance with your disciplinary policy and remind them that if their conduct is serious enough, they could be dismissed.

A good opportunity to boost staff morale

Employers might consider embracing the tournament at work, using it as a way of developing a greater sense of morale and camaraderie. Attendance at work can be encouraged by holding themed events, such as fancy dress, food, or lunchtime games, and live notification of results.

If you have any queries or require support in managing your staff during the World Cup, please contact the HPC team:

T: 0330 107 1037


Twitter: @HPC_HRServices


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