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Six tactics to help businesses operate during the World Cup

The World Cup 2022 kicks off this Sunday, and anticipation is growing amongst fans for the tournament across the World.

This year’s tournament is set to be bigger than ever, with high viewing figures expected. The last tournament attracted an enormous 5 billion viewers. But what does a month-long football festival mean for businesses, particularly the first to take place in the run up to Christmas?

Prior to the 2018 World Cup a poll of over 2,000 UK workers, revealed the average number of unauthorised absences expected for each football fan could be as high as four days. Using this figure, a median seven-hour working day, the UK’s average earnings per hour and viewing figures from the last World Cup reports estimated it could have cost the UK’s economy up to £13bn.

If these figures are to be believed, with this year’s tournament scheduled during the busy festive period the economic cost for this edition could be far greater.

In general, employees should enjoy coming to work and social events such as the World Cup can act as useful catalysts for team building when used in the right way.

However, self-inflicted headaches for employees cause real ones for businesses across the country.

Similarly, with the World Cup taking place in Qatar, many of the matches are scheduled to kick off throughout the period of a normal working day, UK time. Matches kick off at 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm UK time.

It is important to introduce steps to identify and manage these headaches before they escalate into larger problems that affect the firm and the individual – and we would advocate a common sense and practical approach, particularly as many office workers are still working in a hybrid environment.

World Cup tactics for business

Here are six top tips for employers to help businesses operate as normal and avoid any concerns in the workplace during World Cup 2022;

Fixture Scheduling

Many staff will want to watch their national team competing at the tournament and some of the marquee fixtures. Employees should not assume they can spend time during their working day watching the matches.

Remind staff that holiday requests will be approved on a ‘first-come first-served basis. Under the Working Time Regulations, employers are not obliged to accept all holiday requests, especially if there is a business need to turn it down.

Employers would also need to be aware of a potential new national holiday being declared should one of the Home Nations triumph.

Injury Concerns

As noted above, employers may notice a rise in unauthorised absences during the tournament particularly if employees aren’t able to take holidays for the matches they wish to view. Employers should deal with sickness absence in the usual way during the tournament. Keep an eye on reasons for absence and any patterns of absence that occur immediately before or after major matches. Remind staff about absence reporting procedures and return to work interviews. Employers could even modify absence procedures by asking staff who are off sick to report to HR, rather than managers, during the tournament. This might act as a deterrent but also ensure that matters are dealt with consistently. Acas guidance rightly points out that any unauthorised absence, patterns of absence or late attendance are likely be investigated and could result in formal proceedings.

Extra Time?

Acas suggests that employers show a greater degree of flexibility towards working hours during the tournament, even if on a temporary or short term basis. For example, it may be appropriate to allow employees to leave work earlier in time for kick-off on the basis that this time can be made up, or allow employees to swap shifts. Many staff are also still working from home and employers could allow them to watch certain matches if the time is made up elsewhere in the working day, subject to the needs of the business. The extent to which this can be done will of course depend upon the business needs of the employer.

Red Card Offences

Some employers are happy for staff to have a beer over lunch, but in most workplaces, it’s a complete no-no. There may also be workplaces where drinking is a health and safety issue. Businesses also need to be aware that some employees may still be under the influence of alcohol at work the day after a game. If you have an alcohol policy now is the time to reiterate it so staff are clear on the rules and, in particular, that breaking the rules may result in disciplinary action.


The much-maligned Video Assistant Referee isn’t the only technological issue employers will be faced with during the tournament. There may be an increase in the use of social media and websites covering the event. If you have an IT policy already which governs the use of devices and social media then remind staff about those rules. If not, decide on appropriate rules and communicate them to staff and make clear to what extent you are prepared to bend the rules to accommodate the football. For example, employees shouldn’t be using official social media accounts to express their disgust with a dodgy refereeing decision.

Refereeing Staff

Some matches between nations are steeped in conflict (England v Wales springs to mind) and could incite rivalry between colleagues. Whilst many colleagues will engage in friendly pre and post-match banter, employers need to be wary of the potential risk of grievances or discrimination claims. What one employee considers a friendly joke might make another employee feel harassed, especially if someone is making comments about people or players from different nations. Make it clear to employees at the outset that they are expected to behave in an appropriate way during work hours. Remind staff that your Equal Opportunities policy will continue to apply during matches.

Final Thoughts

Acas has published some "top tips to help employers prepare for potential issues that could arise over the World Cup period". The guidance covers topics such as employees booking annual leave and sickness absence, and also suggests that employers might want to allow for more flexibility during the working day while the World Cup matches are taking place.

The World Cup should be an enjoyable event over which colleagues can bond and facilitate good working practices. The aim is not to over-police the event, but ensure the right level of consideration has been given to the appropriate behaviour in the workplace and to minimise disruption.

If your business needs some further expert analysis or advice on managing employees during the World Cup, please contact one of our team of specialist employment lawyers.

The 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup is now just days away with managers and teams applying the final touches ahead of the start of the greatest football show on Earth. There are plenty of differences, but much will remain the same as well, despite the World Cup being played in winter rather than the sweltering Qatari summer.


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