World Cup – the office sweepstake and other considerations

The World Cup kicks off tomorrow. Who will you be supporting? In most work places up and down the country, there will be people who are very interested and following as closely as they can and other people whose only interest will be in when it’s all over (15th July for those counting down the days).

So, given that it’s so topical (and because I couldn’t think of an employment law angle on the Trump/Kim summit), this month’s Mark’s Monthly takes a look at some of the things employers might want to be aware of in relation to the World Cup:-

1. The office sweepstake

An office sweepstake is quite a tradition in many workplaces for sporting occasions like the World Cup and Grand National. For some, their only interest in the World Cup is in seeing how their sweepstake team is doing. If that’s you and you drew Panama, it’s unlikely to go well for you – although there’s a reasonable chance you’ll at least get a win against England

Did you know that some office sweepstakes may be illegal? You should also note that lots of disciplinary procedures prohibit gambling in the workplace. So where does the office sweepstake fit in with that?

Fortunately for those who run an office sweepstake, most of them are likely to be on the right side of the law and disciplinary rules. Here are some rules to keep to so that you’re on the safe side:-

  • Sweepstakes can only be organised and participated in at one location, although this can be multiple buildings at the same location. If you have more than one site/location, each would need to do their own;
  • All participants have to pay the same price for a ticket.
  • Those participating cannot choose their own teams – teams must be allocated by chance, otherwise it would be illegal betting.
  • Tickets are non-transferable
  • The sweepstake can’t be ‘rolled over’ to another sweepstake.
  • The organiser can’t make any profit

Stick to those few rules and you’re unlikely to face a criminal conviction for running the office sweepstake!

2. Equality law issues

Occasionally, over-exuberant football fans have been known to sing songs or say things about the other team or referee that might not be appropriate in the workplace. Employers should remember that they will be liable for any acts of discrimination or harassment unless they can demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the act of discrimination or harassment occurring.

Employers should consider reminding employees of their responsibilities if watching games together or talking about the World Cup in work.

For example, employees should be aware that any comments that might reasonably be deemed offensive on the grounds of race should be avoided and, if they occur, will lead to disciplinary action, even if the comment was made among colleagues outside the workplace. This will extend to messages sent on instant messaging applications and posts on social media.

3. Productivity issues

Employees with an interest in the World Cup might be tempted to try to follow matches during working hours. Employers need to decide what approach they intend to take in relation to this and communicate this to employees. Will you let employees follow the matches during working hours? If so, is this fair on those who have no interest? Will people who take time out to watch a match have to make up the lost time? It’s worth thinking these things through in your own context and forming a view on them before they become live issues in the workplace.

If you have any queries over this or any other employment law matter, please get in touch (preferably in the morning time before the games kick off!)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>