Flexible working for football, but not for women?

As the FIFA Qatar World Cup looms upon us, employers are being urged to permit flexible working – a benefit women have been asking for for years

The bunting is up, sweepstakes have been drawn and if you listen really quietly, you can hear chants, all of which can only mean one thing: The FIFA World Cup is back. 

As the anticipation mounts, employers have been given a firm warning from conciliation service Acas, that the wave of excitement will cause employees to book last-minute annual leave – or worse – call in sick. 

To work around the inconvenient kick-off times – which will, in many cases, fall in working hours – Acas have provided a simple solution: flexible working.

In fact, the exact words from chief executive Susan Clews are as follows: “The World Cup is an exciting event for many football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

“Many businesses need to maintain a certain staffing level in order to survive. Employers should have a set of simple workplace agreements in place before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive whilst keeping staff on side, too.

“Our top tips can help managers get the best from their team players, arrange appropriate substitutions if necessary, and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings-off.”

Acas continues to state that employers should negotiate flexible working with employees, offering fans the option to start early or work late to make up for time missed while watching the game.

The increasing demand for flexible working

Flexible hours to watch football is a lovely idea, which will (hopefully) unite the nation, encouraging the boys in white to bring it ‘home’ once and for all. And just like when our old friend COIVD-19 struck, we’ve found ourselves back at a place where last-minute flexible working is an achievable necessity. 

But if this is the case, why are 52% of women stating that a lack of workplace flexibility has pushed them to leave or consider leaving a job?

A LinkedIn study that included more than 2,000 workers and 500 hiring managers found that  

21% of women feel that the lack of flexible working is negatively impacting their careers, resulting in 25% taking a career break. 

Let me be clear, here. Frustration is not focused on The World Cup, but rather on the idea that employers can – and in some cases will – provide flexible working at the drop of a hat for sports games, while leaving women’s calls unanswered and ignored.

Flexible working stats have skyrocketed since the pandemic. Now, 80% of employers say they offer greater flexibility, with 73% believing employees are largely satisfied and 78% thinking it’s enough to balance work and personal commitments.

On the other hand, Janine Chamberlin, UK country manager at LinkedIn, sees a clear disconnect between what women want and what companies are offering. 

“It’s important that businesses continue to listen to employees’ needs – otherwise they risk talented women finding opportunities elsewhere or leaving the workforce entirely,” Janine says. “As we redesign workplaces for a new world of work, we must ensure flexibility is at the core and that it works for everyone.”

From this statement, ‘everyone’ should be the keyword. If employers intend to bend the rules for the entertainment of certain individuals, the same policies should apply to women who need the flexibility to stay in their careers.


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