Employment issues during major sporting events

Major sporting tournaments and the World Cup

During major sporting tournaments such as the football World Cup there may be specific issues which will come into play in the employment context.

For a tournament such as the World Cup when it is held in a country operating in a similar time zone to the United Kingdom many matches will be on during the day in the week often meaning that staff will request that they can watch matches in the workplace or take time off to watch specific matches.

As an employer do I have to allow staff to take time off?

If a member of staff wishes to take time off to watch specific events in a worldwide tournament such as the World Cup they will be required to follow the same procedure as if they wished to take a days’ holiday for any other reason.

Consequently employers may decide to take a hard line if a lot of staff is requesting time off during busy periods. An employer is thus able to legally refuse these holiday requests.

Is this a desirable position for an employer to put themselves in?

Although an employer is perfectly within their rights legally to do this it may not be a desirable position as it may have a significant impact upon the morale and productivity of staff.

Can I let my employees watch the matches during working hours?

In many companies employees have not made specific request to take time off but have requested that their employer lets them watch specific matches during working hours and make up the time at a later date.

Is an employer under any legal right to provide facilities for employees to watch matches?

There is no legal obligation for an employer to provide facilities in this manner to enable staff to watch World Cup matches.

Would it be a desirable position to enable staff to do this?

Many employers may see viewing such matches as an England football match in either the World Cup or the European Championships as an ideal way to boost company morale and may even use it as a kind of team building exercise. In this way it may be an advantageous position to take this view of staff watching the matches during working hours.

Are there any other options which are available to employers?

An employer may wish to consider introducing flexible working practices during an event such as the World Cup which may allow certain employees time off to watch a specific football match on the condition that they make the time up at a later date.

What are the advantages of introducing flexible working time in this manner?

The advantages in employing a method such as this are as follows:

  •       It encourages employees to take responsibility for organising arrangements
  •       It ensures that appropriate levels of coverage are maintained
  •       This in turn will ensure that customer service and delivery is not adversely affected

As an employer what should I make sure I do during and before a major sporting event such as this?

It is good practice for an employer to draw up a policy document and circulate this to all employees. The document should contain all the details on what will and what won’t be tolerated during the event.

Specific mention may also be made for the scenario whereby an employee over indulges in various celebrations and is unable to turn up for work the next day. In this situation it is advisable that employees are made aware of the consequences which may include disciplinary action.

If I implement a specific policy could I leave myself open to legal challenge?

There is the situation whereby an employer could open themselves to legal challenge if the policy does not apply to all matches played during a tournament. Due to the multi-cultural nature of the United Kingdom with the employment sector being no different it would follow that employees from different nations would request the ability to watch matches involving their nation and not simply the matches involving England.

If an employer were only allowing employees to watch matches involving England they may be opening themselves up to a potential challenge on the grounds of discrimination.