The month-long 2022 FIFA World Cup has the potential to cause HR complications for businesses across the region, with some workers likely to be absent during big matches.
That is the warning from employment lawyer Darryll Thomas who says businesses should prepare for both legitimate holiday requests and for employees calling in sick to watch the showpiece tournament’s live matches.
Mr Thomas, a partner in the Employment and HR Services department at mfg Solicitors, warned business leaders they risk facing ‘weeks of chaos’ unless they prepare now for the Qatar-hosted tournament which runs from 20 November to 18 December.
With England and Wales both competing, and also in the same group, workers will be looking to cheer on both sides, along with people supporting other nations who work in the region.
Mr Thomas believes the tournament will cause a particular headache for employers in comparison to previous tournaments due to the timing of many games, with scheduled kick off times of 10am, 1pm and 4pm cutting across the traditional working day.
Mr Thomas said: “It is a really different time of the year to hold a World Cup but that is down to the intense heat in the Middle East and therefore the decision was taken for it to be held during November and December.
“However, like every World Cup, it’s still going to be hugely exciting with people glued to screens at home and in pubs. But businesses must be able to keep moving as there is a real potential for weeks of chaos.
“We have group games and later knock-out matches taking place at a range of times, many in the mornings and afternoons here in the UK. So there are lots of matches which can cause disruption to business, including England’s first group match against Iran which takes place in the middle of the working day, at 1pm on Monday 21 November.
“Although hybrid working is very much the norm now and is a feasible solution for many, the best thing for employers who rely on staff coming into their workplace is to plan ahead, be understanding and work with them, making sure that leave requests can be accommodated and day-to-day are duties covered.
“Some more innovative firms are even installing TV screens into offices and other workspaces to find a solution.
“The risks are that some staff will inevitably go AWOL to watch matches, or might fail to turn up the day after because they had over indulged. It happened during the 2018
World Cup and Euro 2020, so it’s all about planning ahead and trying to be flexible.
“HR teams have to make sure their absence management policies are in place and up to date and that they have clearly explained their flexible or hybrid working procedures. The World Cup, brings out everyone’s love of football. But employers must not leave it to the last minute to grant requests. The way to address it is to plan ahead and remind everyone what the procedures are.”