November 22, 2022

The World cup: A difficult time for employers?

This post was written by: Laaibah Bhatti

The 2022 World cup in Qatar sees 32 nations taking part in 64 matches until Sunday 18th December. This large sporting event means employers should plan ahead and be prepared to be flexible to minimise disruption to the business.

It is likely staff will want to watch some of the matches and therefore requests for holidays and flexible working may increase over this period.  How employers treat their staff over this period could set the tone for their future working relationship so it is worthwhile having this in mind. 

There are several reasons why the world cup could provide fresh challenges for employers:

  • It is the first ever winter world cup.

Most employers are used to dealing with their workforce taking holidays during the summer. However, that is often a quiet period in any event.  For many businesses, the weeks leading up to Christmas are their busiest period and this World Cup therefore creates additional staffing issues. 

To avoid the risk of too many staff requesting time-off, employers could make arrangements for the matches to be watched at work in the staff room for instance. 

  • The choice of country is controversial due to its views on LGBTQ+ members of society.

Individuals who would ordinarily support and enjoy the event are taking decisions not to watch matches and employers should be sensitive to these views in their organisation of any World Cup-related events or activities.

  • Discriminatory “banter” is always a danger.

Events such as the World Cup increase the risk of discriminatory comments and employers are likely to be liable for comments made by their employees in the workplace or at work events. Employers should consider reminding employees of their responsibilities and how easy it can be for “banter” to cross the line into discrimination.

  • Procedural fairness

Employers need to ensure that any requests for holidays and flexible working are dealt with fairly and equally for all.  In particular, employers should not favour for instance the England matches only but should be aware that staff members may want to support their own team/country throughout the World Cup.

Employers should bear in mind that refusing annual leave for business reasons is possible – but as always a clear procedure should be in place and criteria communicated effectively.

At Aston Bond we understand that this large sporting event can be a chaotic time for employers.  For any assistance in dealing with staffing issues over this period, please contact: (Head of employment )