Avoid World Cup discrimination own goal

We are warning organisations not to discriminate against employees supporting countries other than England during the World Cup, which kicks off in Russia next week.

Avoid World Cup discrimination own goal

With 64 matches crammed into the space of a month, and the majority of kick-off times (ranging from 11am to 8pm) taking place during normal office hours due to the time difference, the World Cup has the potential to cause disruption to the workplace as many employees will want to see their favourite team in action.

However, while much of the media hype is naturally centred on the games involving Gareth Southgate’s England, MHR is warning business leaders not to show bias towards employees supporting England and be beware of the potential diversity and discrimination issues that can arise, as employees from different ethnic backgrounds may support one of the other 31 nations competing.

World Cup discrimination insight from Emma Bullen at MHR

Emma Bullen, HR Expert at MHR, says: "Just because World Cup fever is sweeping the country it would be wrong to make the assumption that everyone is an England fan or indeed loves football."

"The UK’s culturally diverse workforce means not everyone will be interested in the same matches, so organisations need to be mindful not to discriminate against employees based on nationality and ensure any special arrangements you are considering for the tournament are inclusive to all employees regardless of which national team they are supporting."

"If you are permitting employees to watch the England matches, then it’s only fair that fans of other countries can watch their games too."

"The World Cup provides a great opportunity for organisations to promote a positive culture, build team morale and drive employee engagement. Introducing a temporary sporting policy which clearly communicates what is expected of employees is key to ensuring the World Cup is enjoyable and passes smoothly with minimal disruption to productivity and no complaints."

Research typically shows that during sporting events employers see an upsurge in unauthorised absences, last minute leave requests and the potential for lost productivity as employees want to keep up with the action on the pitch.

10 tips to avoid World Cup discrimination at work

Here are MHR’s top ten tactics for embracing the World Cup and providing employees with the flexibility to enjoy the event while maintaining the needs of the business.

  1. Identify the big matches that take place during normal working hours
  2. Prepare for last minute holiday requests and handle them fairly and consistently on a first-come first-served basis
  3. Accommodate match days by introducing a temporary flexible working policy which permits employees to finish early and make up lost time later, or work through their lunch.
  4. Deter employees from pulling a sickie by monitoring absence trends and reminding them of the company absence policy and disciplinary procedures
  5. Consider allowing employees to take unpaid leave to watch matches
  6. Permit employees to swap shifts with their colleagues
  7. Screen matches on your premises and review your internet policy to enable games to be streamed live
  8. Don’t discriminate against supporters of other nations
  9. Hold dress down days on which employees can wear football shirts to work
  10. Remember – not everyone likes football! Introduce different perks for employees not interested in the World Cup.


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