World Cup 2022 – The best advice from the employer!

The World Cup runs from Sunday November 20 to Sunday December 18. Emma O’Connor, Director and Head of HR Training, shares her top tips for helping employers survive and employees thrive during the tournament.

Yes, it’s World Cup time again! Despite the controversy and it being the first-ever Winter World Cup, England and Wales have progressed to the final in Qatar. Many staff members might be eager to watch certain matches, follow a national team, or simply take an interest in the beautiful game more generally. The World Cup can have a positive impact on a workforce as an opportunity to come together in a national or sporting celebration. However, what advice can I give to employers to ensure that the 4 week deadline goes smoothly from a labor law and commitment perspective?

Watch games at work

Setting up a screen at work for staff to watch key matches could be a great way to boost staff morale, if that is what is agreed. Employers could even livestream those working remotely to create a sense of unity. Management can decide which games will be shown at work, or they can ask staff if there are any games of preference – again a way to bring staff together. Many staff may not want to watch England or Wales, so be accommodating to those supporting other national teams. A simple staff poll or saying you’re going to show quarter/semi or final matches is yet another way to do it. If staff watch together, remember to remind them to be tolerant and respectful of others – you want to create an inclusive environment.

Watching games at your desk or while working?

While setting up a screen may work for some workplaces, not all environments or workplaces are able to do this. What about employees watching on their laptops or phones (whether work or personal)? What about employees who “watch from home”? If your organization does not allow any personal or incidental use of email or the Internet during work hours, this may be the position that continues to be taken.

However, other employers may allow some personal use of email/internet during work hours, as long as it is incidental or does not interfere with their job, complies with any acceptable use policy and that it is not excessive. There should be limits around “accidental” internet use and what that means, a policy on email or internet use, clear communication and awareness of misuse of email electronics/Internet. The use must also be acceptable, etc. in terms of content.

It would be desirable to repeat the rules for the use of email and the Internet, specifying that the use must be excessive and/or interfere with work, which could lead to the revocation of the privilege as well as misconduct disciplinary. Productivity is always key, so if people want to watch during lunch/break time or before or after work, that’s okay, as long as work comes first.

The rules also apply to working from home or in the office; but remember to act fairly and proportionately in the way these rules are applied: a fair process as well as a fair reason are essential. Also consider the work the employee does. Is watching a match working safe? Again, there may be different rules between employees, but always act consistently.

Flags and souvenirs?

The personalization of workspaces is a yes or no question for the employer. If the answer is yes and staff should be allowed to personalize their workplace with football memorabilia, clear guidelines should be set. How long can the decorations last, what are the limits in terms of acceptability and taste.

Another option, and perhaps a more inclusive approach, would be to have a physical and/or virtual “World Cup wall” where employees can post photos or decorate with their own countries they support as well as all nations represented. Additionally, you can include people’s memories of “where were you at…”, allowing employees of all ages to share their memories of previous Work Cup moments.

social media

Many of you reading this will worry about “jokes” in such circumstances and you would be right to do so. Social media posts — even on personal accounts — can have huge implications for employers and employees. Offensive, discriminatory, threatening, or inappropriate messages sent to anyone inside or outside your organization, posted, liked, or re-shared can damage your company’s reputation and result in disciplinary action for the individual. Comments may also constitute harassing and discriminatory behavior.

Check your social media policies: do they include rules for personal messages sent to personal accounts as well as employer accounts? Even with the strictest privacy settings, there can be no expectation of privacy, messages can be captured and forwarded easily. Warn of risks and probable consequences.

Think before you tweet!

Alcohol and substances

Staff should not come to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs (unless medication is prescribed). Your workplace rules may also extend to possession. Reiterate the rules regarding alcohol and drugs – making it clear that this is a disciplinary (and possibly criminal) offence. If you provide alcohol at work, again, it is on the condition that it is used reasonably and in moderation. Good judgment should be used. Be mindful of those who don’t drink alcohol and make specific arrangements for all to enjoy the events.

Free time/flexible work

While employees can request vacations, these must be taken at times acceptable to the employer. If an employee has requested to take time off, this should be considered fairly and in accordance with your existing vacation policies or rules. If the leave cannot be granted, explain clearly why and try to be as flexible as possible. If an employee requests to change their hours of work on a particular day, again act fairly and in accordance with other requests of a similar nature. Also act fairly in terms of who makes the request; agreeing to take time off to watch a game against England but not a game for another national team can have other discriminatory consequences.

Likewise, with an ad hoc flexible work demand, can this be met? Provided that the applications have not been accepted under other similar circumstances, or that the managers do not select and choose the applications unfairly, they must not be accepted. However, think of the alternatives – lateness, other absence – it may be better to accommodate the demand than to have to deal with absenteeism.


If the staff is absent or takes an unscheduled day off, you are entitled to ask “why?” “. Employers should already have processes in place for reporting absences, return-to-work interviews and self-certification. If you suspect that your attendance rules are not being followed or that the absence is not real then, depending on your work rules, you may have recourse through your sick pay, unauthorized absence or disciplinary policy. These are things that employers – and especially managers – should pay attention to and manage effectively anyway.

Conduct inside (and outside) work

Employers are responsible for the actions of their employees while they are “at work” and when there is a “connection” between the action in question and the work they do for you. The definition of what is “at work” and what constitutes “work” is particularly gray and case law has shown that the definition is broad. Make it clear that your employees are your ambassadors – inside and outside the workplace. Define which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, and what the likely consequences are for unacceptable behavior.

Contests and games of chance

Although it can be a little fun, be careful not to break the rules for lotteries and gambling.

To show creativity!

Football may not be everyone’s sport of choice, so think about what you could do to include everyone. Quiz, “did you know”, cake baking (decorating in a national flag, etc.), sports challenges, fundraising for a local sports charity or raising awareness of racism in football (eg Kick It Out) – there are many different opportunities to get involved in football without having to watch the tournament.

Do we need an events policy?

Maybe. However, in these situations that should bring people together, it may be more appropriate to ask staff to use common sense and work within your existing policies. Employers should have policies that already address inclusive workplaces, use of email, social media or the internet, and disciplinary infractions. That said, I am in favor of a policy of employer representation or ambassadorship. It can also include situations where an employee represents the employer at a client or other workplace event. It’s something to think about. Whatever you decide, good communication, leading by example, and setting clear guidelines — while maintaining a sense of unity and fun — can be a better approach.


It is largely the choice of the employer. Whether you want to allow staff to watch games or decorate their workplace is up to you and your workplace culture. Some may want to see the tournament as a chance to bring staff together, engage staff and boost morale.

Set clear boundaries, review your workplace policies, communicate, and think about how you can develop plans that include all staff. Remind staff to be respectful, tolerant and considerate of others. Consider manager training, especially around equality and diversity issues (this should always be a must!). Common sense goes a long way in these situations – it is, after all, just a game.