Key considerations for employers during the Euros

Germany hosts the 24 team UEFA European Championship tournament, which is taking place from 14 June 2024 to 14 July 2024.

Italy are the defending champions, having won the 2020 tournament against England on penalties in the final.

Suffice it to say, there will be no escaping the football extravaganza and with fixtures now well underway, we look here at why employers should plan how they will manage potential problems and communicate their approach with staff in advance.

What approach are you going to take?

American businessman and humourist, Arnold H. Glasow, was once famously quoted as saying "In life, as in football, you won't go far unless you know where the goalposts are".

Making clear decisions around how the Euros sits alongside work commitments and communicating those decisions/expectations to the workforce means that employers can strike a positive balance between getting work done without the football acting as a distraction or a cause of problems.

For example, areas where clarity can be provided (ideally having first engaged in a degree of consultation with the workforce), would perhaps include:

  • What flexibility will be available to staff?
  • What are the limits to ensure that work still gets done?
  • Will there be an expectation to make time up?
  • Will the matches be screened in the workplace?
  • Will staff be permitted to wear their home nation's football kit on match day and/or decorate the office with flags/memorabilia?
  • What is the expectation/policy around alcohol?

The benefits of being flexible

It’s well-established that employer engagement around events such as the Euros has the potential to benefit staff morale, productivity and aid employee relations. Quite how far employers are willing to go however will depend on the nature and specific requirements of their business, therefore it would be sensible for employers to clearly set out their position as this will be vital to minimising issues.

The schedule is hectic with three matches being played on most days during the four-week tournament. With an estimated 50% of the British population expected to watch the Euros, it will inevitably risk causing some disruption for businesses across the country. Will there be flexibility on hours or will staff need to request holiday to watch a game?

Most employers will want to support a positive, inclusive workplace culture therefore ultimately, demonstrating some general flexibility in order to accommodate people's desire to engage with the Euros may well end up being the lesser of two evils and go some way to avoiding issues such as sick leave, staff attending work under the influence of alcohol and detrimental impact on productivity. Employers should make clear what behaviours are acceptable and expect that staff will follow the rules.

What about those who work from home?

Consideration should also be given to those who are working from home or who request to work from home on match day. Should employers communicate differently with these people? Should employers monitor them if they don't ordinarily?

In circumstances where working from home provides a greater deal of flexibility, employers might want to take the view that so long as the work gets done, then they'd be happy to agree for staff to perhaps take longer lunch breaks, start earlier/finish later, make up time another day etc.

Screening matches within the workplace

In an attempt to manage absenteeism and incentivise staff, some employers may look to put up screens in the workplace enabling staff, and potentially customers, to view big games. However, employers should be aware of the issues to consider before taking this approach.

One such issue is choosing which games to screen, as employees of different nationalities must be treated equally. Failing to do so could lead to allegations of discrimination, a warning also echoed by ACAS.  Also, businesses need to pay heed to the licensing regime for showing recorded games (which can be a licensable activity), and also pay particular care to office sweepstakes and private lotteries.

Considering staff use of social media

To avoid staff engaging with online discussion groups during working hours, our recommendations align with those of ACAS in that you remind staff of your existing social media policies, expectations during working hours, and the consequences of failing to comply with these.

Sending clear communication to staff in advance will minimise the disruption to your business and hopefully lead to a positive and productive workforce during what promises to be a great event.

Handling possible conduct issues

Suspicious sickness absence, misconduct inside and outside of work and failure to follow normal policies (i.e. equality and diversity, sickness reporting/holiday requests) are all potential issues employers will need to be aware of.

  • Suspicious sickness absence – Employers shouldn’t assume and/or jump to the conclusion that just because an employee is sick on (or the day after) match day, it's an automatic conduct issue. Employers will still need to ensure that they carry out a reasonable investigation and bear in mind that sickness absence doesn’t necessarily mean an employee can't leave home (Mr C Kane v Debmat Surfacing Ltd: 2501862/2020).
  • Misconduct inside and outside of work – the obvious ones here are skipping work (AWOL), turning up for work drunk, substance misuse, discriminatory behaviour and internet/computer misuse. Employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees whilst they are “in work” therefore employers should make clear what behaviours are acceptable and what is not and what the likely consequences are if there is unacceptable conduct.
  • Discrimination – People can of course be very passionate about supporting their 'home' team (often by seeking to put down or criticise the 'opposition'), however the fact that lines are essentially drawn on grounds of nationality means that there is clear scope for a risk of people overstepping the line with regard to showing respect for other races and cultures.  Healthy banter at work can be beneficial to the business, helping build team spirit and morale however employers are well advised to remind employees to not have jokes based on nationality/supporting certain teams/players and reinforce that there is a clear expectation that all others are treated with dignity and respect and that discriminatory behaviour (in particular on grounds of race, sex, religion and sexual orientation) will not be tolerated even if intended in good humour.

Round up - practical steps for employers

  • Annual leave - manage requests for annual leave on a 'first come first served' basis and possibly even subject to limits in teams/departments, however, employers should be mindful about how these requests are prioritised – not all requests during the Euros will be in connection with the football.
  • Social media activity and possible reputational damage – violence between employees and inappropriate posts on social media (racist comments etc), are potential issues during the Euros, therefore employers should be clear about the boundaries and reiterate the expected standards of language and behaviour (including giving consideration to drawing people's attention to any equality/diversity and/or social media policies in place).
  • Attending work under the influence – employers might want to be mindful of match times and make clear whether having an alcoholic drink during lunch time is prohibited. If employees are intoxicated at work, it will normally be appropriate to suspend them immediately and then investigate before taking any disciplinary action.
  • Implications for SSP and annual leave – it may be worth emphasising to staff that if employees fail to follow the correct procedures, they may not be paid and may be subject to disciplinary action.
  • Consistent approach - employers should be consistent in their approach to handling issues during the Euros, especially around the approach to requests for leave and/or to work from home (ensuring that any flexibility offered to supporters is extended to supporters of other countries).
  • Offering flex – employers should take care over offering flex and bear in mind that this can't just be for those supporting England or Scotland.
  • Be mindful of sweepstakes - technically, sweepstakes are one of eight types of lotteries that are regulated by the Gambling Commission therefore it might be advisable to devise a policy on whether gambling is prohibited and/or make clear what the maximum financial contribution is on workplace gambling.

If you would like to discuss any of the above points in further detail or require assistance in drafting a communication to staff, please contact Sharee Kitley or your usual contact in the Foot Anstey Employment team.

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