With the largest sporting event in the world less than a month away, now seems an apt time to address how to avoid falling foul of your employer’s policies during the World Cup.
On the off chance you haven’t already seen them, the match times have already been released this year and the majority of them fall within normal working hours – starting at 13:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 19:00. This is obviously not ideal for football fans but gives the possibility of watching the match in working hours. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse, and I’ll discuss some of the reasons why below:
- Do I have a right to watch my country’s team play?
The short answer is no (unless your contract states otherwise – highly unlikely!). Although some employers will let their employees watch certain games you do not have an express right do to so. However, if, for instance, your employer allows England fans the afternoon off to watch the match but doesn’t give the same offer to supporters of other countries when their teams are playing this could potentially be seen as race discrimination under the Equality Act.
- Can I be disciplined for my behaviour on a staff social?
It’s a fact that a lot of staff social events involve alcohol and sometimes there can be a tendency towards inappropriate behaviour when drinking is involved. I would suggest this is especially true during the World Cup given the excitement of the event and the high emotions (usually disappointment, for England fans) involved. This gives rise to the question of whether or not your employer can sanction you for your behaviour during a staff social? The answer to this question is yes, they can. If your employer organises an outing or event their normal rules on appropriate behaviour will apply to staff who attend it. There are many examples of staff members acting inappropriately at work events and facing disciplinary proceedings because of this, so it is worth bearing in mind!
- Can I show support for my country’s team at work?
The World Cup is one of the largest sporting events in the world, bringing together 64 countries who fight for a spot in the final 32. Many different nations with their own customs and traditions, it is a great chance for employees to share their culture with one another. However, due to the competitive nature of the event some supporters can tend to get a little carried away. It goes without saying that it is a good idea to be respectful about the other countries in the competition. Negative comments and stereotypes are often found to be discriminatory in law, whether they are intended to be or not, and can lead to disciplinary action or even dismissal. It is also worth mentioning that some employers have a “neutrality policy” which may prohibit employees displaying flags and various other national symbols in the office; if in doubt, ask your employer before doing so.
James Battle – Legal Assistant