Considerations for Employers during Euro 2016

June 2016

By Eliza Nash of Osborne & Wise

As with any major sporting event in which Britain has a stake, Euro 2016 brings with it excitement and also some challenges in the workplace.  Being prepared, having ‘a plan’ and communicating this are key to tackling these challenges and scoring ‘a win’ for employee relations. 

We consider some of the employment issues to look out for:

Watching matches during working hours
Football fans may choose to view games from their individual pcs, using up valuable bandwith, as well as working time.  Consider screening ‘big matches’ in a central area and allowing staff to watch.  Otherwise, may clear what is and isn’t acceptable, eg, if permission from a manager is needed.   Beware also of favouring England matches.  Your workforce is likely to compose of a variety of nationalities and workers should be treated consistently to avoid claims of discrimination.

Holiday Requests
You may have holiday requests from workers travelling to matches or simply wishing to watch them at home.  If there are too many to accommodate, you will need to decide between competing requests.  If you have an existing policy on this, eg, first come first served, you should stick to that.  Otherwise, you will need to be fair and consistent and should not prioritise football fans over staff taking time off for other reasons.

You may face an unprecedented level of sickness absence during this period-funny that!  In this case, you may want to inform employees that you will be keeping an eye on absences, particularly on certain key dates.   

If you have a policy on monitoring persistent short term sickness absence, which you regularly use in practice, this will make things easier.  If not, this is certainly something you should think about for the future. 

If you rely on overtime, you may have difficulties, given that many of the matches start at 8 pm.  If workers are contractually obliged to work overtime, you may need to remind them of this.  If it is purely voluntary, think about what incentives you can use to encourage take up.  Either way, you may want to arrange for workers to watch the match on the premises if it is still going on after their shift finishes.

Sporting Talk
There will inevitably be a lot of football related chat around this time and much of it will be harmless.  However, you will need to be mindful of the potential for offensive remarks.  Having an Anti Harassment and Bullying or Dignity at Work Policy is key to informing employees of the standards of behaviour expected of them and what amounts to discrimination, as well as providing a mechanism for any complaints.  It may be wise to remind employees of their duty to treat others with respect during this period.  What may be a joke for one person, could be viewed as harassment by another.  Needless to say, any complaints should be taken seriously.

Dressing Up or Down
Some employees may wish to show their support by wearing their team’s colours or simply want to dress down.  What you decide to do will very much be influenced by the culture of the workplace but there may be scope for flexibility in what is permitted.  On the other hand, if you have a strict dress code for particular reasons, eg, uniforms for retail staff, you may need to remind staff of this.

Again, beware partiality in any ‘bespoking’ of dress codes for the season.  Only allowing England shirts is a bad idea and will amount discrimination, even if no offence is intended. 

Communicate and Inform
As mentioned at the outset, clear communication of policies to staff (eg, via the intranet or email) is an essential ingredient to a successful Euro 2016.  Expectations are set, the risk of misunderstandings is reduced and, if formal action is needed, you will be on strong ground, having set out the rules of play at the outset.  On a positive note, this is an opportunity to foster and enhance employee relations by bringing staff together and allowing some flexibility to working practices.