The World Cup: why is this time different for employers?

There are a number of reasons why the coming World Cup provides fresh challenges for employers:

  1. This World Cup is controversial - The choice of host country is far from popular with particular attention focused on its human rights record and treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, women and migrant workers. 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.
  2. This is the first World Cup in the WFH era - With many more employees working from home than was the case at previous World Cups and a large number of daytime kick offs, employers need to consider their approach to these issues. Will they allow employees to work flexibly and make up hours spent watching the matches? How will they deal with increased requests to work from home on match days? The key will be good communication with the workforce and a consistent approach, so that all parties are clear. Employers should remember that any flexibility offered to supporters of England and Wales, should also be extended to supporters of other countries.
  3. This is a Winter World Cup - Previous World Cups fell during the normal summer holiday season. Most employers are used to dealing with their workforce taking holidays during the summer. For many businesses, the weeks leading up to Christmas are their busiest period and this World Cup therefore creates additional issues. The potential for more than the usual amount of holiday requests (especially on short notice), or more than the usual amount of sickness absences is something that may need to be planned for.
  4. Claims arising from discriminatory “banter” are reportedly on the increase - According to a report in the Financial Times earlier this year (see here), the number of Employment Tribunal claims relating to the use of “banter” in the workplace rose by 44% from 2020 to 2021. 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.

If you would like to discuss anything further on this topic, please get in touch with Matt McBride or Rena Magdani.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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