Posted on 11th June 2010

How to Avoid a World Cup Employment Law Own Goal

Nick Poole, Latimer Hinks
Nick Poole, of Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks, is advising what employers should do to make sure they do not score an employment law own goal during the World Cup.

Nick said: "How companies deal with staff wanting to watch World Cup matches needs to be handled with care as they run the risk of falling foul of a raft of employment legislation.

Nick added: "I am sure that some employers will implement a watch at work scheme to allow staff to watch key games that take place during working hours.

"However, they need to bear in mind there are increasingly-diverse workforces wishing to watch a wide range of national teams so it should not be assumed that only England games are relevant. Adopting a policy of granting time-off requests only for England matches could give rise to claims for race discrimination.

"Also, not all employees will want to watch matches. If, for example, it is mostly the men in a company who want to watch a match rather than the female staff, any preferential treatment given for time-off could constitute indirect sex discrimination. To prevent this from happening equal benefits need to be on offer, such as the same amount of time off for those who are not interested in football.

"In the current tough economic climate, it is crucial to many employers that work comes first. But there are ways to ensure that staff put in their proper hours while still being able to take time out to watch a match. This could involve working flexible hours on a particular day by coming in earlier, taking a later lunch break or working later to make sure a full day is worked.

"There could also be issues surrounding health and safety if, say, a television, which could divert workers attention from what they were doing, was allowed in an area where machinery is being used.

Nick concluded: "The overall message for employers is to focus on balance and fairness. Managers should advise staff what their World Cup policies are and make sure that it means all employees are treated equally.

"If employers bear all this in mind they should avoid scoring an employment law own goal while the World Cup is on.