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

20th September 2019

The Rugby World Cup is upon us. It promises to be one of the most exciting tournaments in years but how will fans cope with the eight hour time difference which means that many games will be taking place during working hours? If you are planning on watching the matches at work there are a number of important things for employers and employees to consider.

Hannah Parsons, Principal Associate Solicitor at DAS Law, tells you what you 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 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?

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. You may want to speak to your employer to see if you can negotiate some time during the day that you may be able to watch the matches or have a TV set up in your workplace.

If you feel that your employer is being unreasonable, you could raise a grievance outlining your issues. However, you have no legal right to watch sporting events during work time.

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. This would be due to the fact that 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 misconduct.

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

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. If a flexible working request is granted, this would normally form a permanent change to your contract.

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

If you are an employer…

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 falls over 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. You will however 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 and breached their duty of care and that their injuries 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.

Do we need a TV licence to watch the World Cup at work? Are there any rules around lots of people watching a broadcast?

All of the world cup matches are being broadcast on terrestrial television channels. You will therefore need a current TV licence to be able to watch any of the matches in the workplace to avoid a visit form an enforcement officer and potentially criminal prosecution.

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 a noticeably larger amount of sick leave?

It is important not to jump to conclusions if staff members call in sick when matches are taking place. 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 time off.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

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