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Following on from our recent article on the potential implications of the World Cup for employers, and the recent naming of the England football squad, there is another issue regarding the World Cup that may affect you as an employer.  What is it?  Well, it is Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights.

With the tournament now just days away, this issue is becoming increasingly prominent in media coverage and that’s prompting some pretty fierce debate on the issue. So much so, the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverley, recently weighed in on the issue telling LGBTQ+ football fans to show respect to Qatar, which criminalises their sexuality. Understandably, that didn’t go down too well!

Actually… Mr Cleverley’s intervention highlights perfectly an example of another issue that employers might face as a result of this somewhat controversial tournament.

What if your staff start to make similar comments about the World Cup that their LGBTQ+ colleagues find offensive?

Well remember that comments about sexual orientation or gender reassignment can constitute harassment under the Equality Act 2010. As you will know if you have attended our recent training session, it doesn’t matter if the employee making the comment intended to offend their colleague. Seemingly innocent comments, such as Mr Cleverley’s, might cause an employee to feel that their dignity has been violated or that their workplace is hostile.

If you find yourself facing this sort of issue, be careful of knee jerk reactions. Investigate the issue and in particular how the comments made the person who has complained about them feel, whilst taking into account all of the circumstances and background in which the comments were made.

What if it goes further than that? What if LGBTQ+ employees feel excluded or offended as a result of their colleagues or their employer showing support for the World Cup?

It’s a difficult and really sensitive issue and you’re going to have react accordingly. Don’t get the wrong impression – we’re absolutely not telling you that you can’t enjoy the football (come on England!), we’re just saying that it pays to be mindful of how colleagues are feeling about it.

When talking to staff about the World Cup it can be helpful to remind them of your position around equality and diversity and if you’re issuing any internal communications about the tournament you should think about including a statement on the position that you’re taking with regard to Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights.

This is just another thing that we, as employers, need to be mindful of.  You can count on the Precept Team to guide you through everything you need to do to keep your workforce happy.  If you missed our recent training session on harassment, we are re-running it on Wednesday 16 November at 1pm – CLICK HERE to register and be eligible for money off whole staff training on this issue.  It is one not to be missed!