Don’t get a red card while watching the World Cup at work

4th August 2023

It is the Women’s World Cup and the Lionesses have reached the quarter-finals, leaving fans across the country building with anticipation to see the team bring the World Cup home. England supporters will be desperate to watch the upcoming games as their hopes of glory come within touching distance.

However, due to the time difference, some games will be played during working hours in the UK. So, for fans longing to see the Lionesses’ journey while at work, what options do they have?

Simon Roberts, Solicitor at DAS Law, tells employees and employers what they need to know…

If you’re an employee…

Am I allowed to watch the World Cup during working hours?

Whether you would be able to watch the World Cup during your working hours would depend on whether this has been agreed by your employer, especially if you are using a company device.

How can I challenge my employer’s decision not to allow us to watch the World Cup at work?

You have no legal right to watch sporting events during work time and if your employer refuses to allow you to watch any of the matches during working hours, there is little that you can do to challenge this from a legal perspective.

However, you may want to speak to your employer to see if you can negotiate time during the day when you may be able to watch the matches or have a TV in your workplace. If you feel that your employer is being unreasonable, you could raise a grievance outlining your issues.

If I was to call in sick to watch the World Cup and was subsequently found out by my employer, what disciplinary action am I likely to face?

If you were to falsely call in sick to watch the World Cup, your employer may take disciplinary action against you. This would be because you would have breached the implied terms in your contract of employment of mutual trust and confidence, and it may also be defined as an act of gross misconduct.

Depending on your employer’s disciplinary policy and the individual circumstances, this could result in a disciplinary action being issued, probably in the form of a written warning or worst case, a dismissal.

Am I entitled to flexible working on an ad-hoc/temporary basis?

You do have the right to make a formal flexible working request as all employees have the legal right to request flexible working.

In order to be eligible, you must have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks. However, note that if a flexible working request is granted by your employer, this would normally form a permanent change to your contract and is not temporary.

You can make one formal flexible working request every 12 months and your employer may decline the request if they have a genuine business reason to do so.

We are planning a World Cup viewing party, what are the rules around drinking at work? Can we serve alcohol and what happens if someone has one too many and/or acts inappropriately?

Generally, employers will have strict policies in place regarding the consumption of alcohol on work premises, even on licenced premises. However, when events occur such as charity events or in the case of the World Cup, an employer may use its discretion to relax these policies. There are no set rules surrounding drinking at work other than those set by the employer. However, you will be bound by the Licensing Act 2003 if you intend to sell alcohol. 

Employers still owe a duty of care to their employees whilst at work so this should be taken into consideration when offering free or unlimited drinks.  Should an employee injure themselves, they may be able to pursue a claim against the company for personal injury if they can evidence that their employer has been negligent. The employee will need to prove the employer has breached the duty of care and that any injuries suffered were foreseeable. 

Should an employee misbehave or breach the company’s code of conduct, they may be subject to disciplinary action. When considering any potential disciplinary action or sanction being given to an employee, employers would have to take into consideration mitigating circumstances such as the provision of alcohol and the extent that this may have contributed to the employee’s actions.

If you are an employer…

Can an employer introduce flexible working on an ad-hoc/temporary basis to give people some choice or I can get them to make up the hours?

Employers cannot change the working hours of employees without their consent as this would constitute a breach of contract. They would however be able to discuss the options with their employees to enable them to take time to watch the matches.  Changes can be implemented with the agreement of both parties.

What can employers do if their employees are taking sick leave during match games?

It is important not to jump to conclusions if staff members call in sick when matches are taking place. Employers should investigate the absence in a normal way. However, if it transpires that the sickness was not genuine, employers may be able to take disciplinary action.

A way of avoiding large amounts of sickness - which can be an impact to any business - would be to consider being flexible with regards to staff taking leave or allowing them time during the working day to watch matches.

What should employers do if a large number of people ask for time off at the last minute?

There is no legal obligation for employers to accommodate last-minute requests for time off, especially if there is a policy in place for notice to be given to book any time off.

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