UK Employment Law

HRM Guide Updates

World Cup Matches, Employees and Discrimination

May 24 2006 - Employers who let employees watch the World Cup during work time could be laying themselves open to discrimination claims, according to some specialist lawyers.

"One has to remember that not all staff will be football fans - so what of those employees who may not wish to watch the match - do they get time off too?" said Tony Bourne, specialist employment partner at Glovers solicitors. "Taking the stereotypical view that men tend to like football more than women it could be construed that men would get time off to watch football but women would not get equal free time off. As such, it could be viewed as sex discrimination or, more likely, indirect sex discrimmination."

A survey conducted for specialist finance recruiter Nigel Lynn found that just over two thirds of companies (67%) plan to allow employees to watch World Cup matches during work time. Their survey involved 284 organisations across the UK. It seems that many companies have decided that it would be better to let people watch matches at work than face an epidemic of 'sickies' or 'duvet days'.

Steve Carter, Managing Director of Nigel Lynn commented on the survey and Tony Bourne's remarks:

"Even doing something positive for your employees can have a potentially negative effect these days - it's becoming a legal minefield. With today's diverse workforce, it is unlikely just to be just England matches that employees want to watch so where do you draw the line?"

Tony Bourne advises employers to let staff watch England matches - or matches of an employee's home country (if not England) but not both - and to require employees to make up for lost time by working through their lunch hours or extending the working day.

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