The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday 20th November and many employers may be anticipating a drop in employee productivity as a result, particularly if the England team reach the latter stages of the competition! 
Here are 5 key things to consider as the World Cup 2022 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 working from home era 
With many employees now working from home and because of the time difference, there a large number of day-time kick-offs, some businesses may find that their employees are watching World Cup fixtures when they are meant to be working which may reduce the employee’s productivity. 
Prior to the tournament starting or before key tournament fixtures, employers are advised to remind their workers of their responsibilities in respect of not watching matches when they are meant to be working. 
Alternatively, businesses could allow temporary changes to employees’ working hours to allow them to watch matches and then make the time up at a later date. In some cases, this may be preferable to an employee booking off a full day or half a day of annual leave. 
Businesses need to make it clear that excessive use of the internet and social media in order to keep up to date with World Cup 2022 will not be tolerated. Employers should reinforce internal policies that may already be in place on company IT, personal internet and social media usage. 
Employers may want to actively check and monitor internet and social media activity during the tournament. If so, they should ensure that staff are aware this is a possibility by, for example, including it in the staff handbook. 
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. 
Employers may see an increased rate of their employees requesting time off to watch the matches during the tournament. This may well be the case for England’s first match of the tournament, which takes place at 1pm on Monday, 21 November. 
If a business is unable to accommodate all requests, it is vital that staff members’ expectations are managed sufficiently. To do this, employers should ensure the time requested off work is granted on a fair and consistent basis. 
Alternatively, businesses could allow temporary changes to employees’ working hours to allow them to watch matches and then make the time up at a later date. In some cases, this may be preferable to an employee booking off a full day or half a day of annual leave. 
Question - I have had to deny a holiday request, I suspect the employee is ‘pulling a sickie’ instead, what should I do? 
Answer : If an employee has requested time off work and the employer has been unable to grant it, the employee may be tempted to call in sick when they are not ill, in order to watch a game. Alternatively, the worker may have ‘overindulged’ whilst watching a match and decided to call in sick the following day. During the tournament, employers may want to monitor sickness absence and take measures to prevent and deter employees from taking advantage of the system more closely. This may involve reminding staff of sickness absence policies, in particular, what will be considered to be genuine reasons for absence and notifying staff in advance that any unauthorised absences from work could result in disciplinary action being taken. 
4. Claims arising from discriminatory “banter” are reportedly on the increase 
Not all staff members who are football fans may support England and workplace banter may develop between staff members who support opposing nations, particularly as Wales has qualified for the tournament and will also be facing England in group B. It is essential that this does not cross the line into racial discrimination – based on nationality – and employers should take steps to keep this under review and make it clear that any discriminatory behaviour will result in disciplinary action. 
5. Embracing the World Cup 2022 and what are the benefits? 
Don’t forget that the World Cup can also offer the opportunity for employees to engage and bond with one another and businesses may want to take advantage of this by allowing their employees to keep up to date with what is happening at the tournament. You could, for example, screen some matches in a break room or arrange themed (virtual) social events or run a sweepstake. 
Employers who successfully use World Cup 2022 as an employee engagement tool are more likely to benefit from the positive impact on morale. It can be an opportunity to engage and include staff which, if utilised correctly, can discourage employees from any unauthorised absences or excessive internet or social media use. 
However, it is worth a business checking their policies and procedures to ensure that potential challenges are covered, and that employees’ attention has been drawn to the relevant sections. 
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