The football tournament UEFA Euro 2016 kicks off on 10 June. This is an exciting time for fans and provided employers are prepared for the issues that may arise at work, there’s no reason why the matches can’t be enjoyed by everyone while also ensuring all business needs are met.
Employers should start planning as early as possible in order to minimise any business disruption caused. Acas has general guidance on how to handle major sporting events at work and has just published specific guidance on Euro 2016.
The group B and group C matches take place between 11-21 June, and the match between England and Wales takes place on Thursday 16 June with a 2pm start. If either country gets through to the next round, further matches take place between Saturday 25 June and the final on Sunday 10 July.
Although the matches are not taking place during school holidays in England and Wales, June and July are traditionally times when staff wish to take time off work. The Euros are likely to compound this problem and employers may face many more holiday requests than usual from employees wishing to attend matches or watch them on TV. Businesses may not be able to accommodate every request for time off and will need to think carefully about how to manage them, especially if several employees request the same day. The 16 June is likely to be popular, for example.
Employees have the right to request paid annual leave from work but there is no automatic right to time off just because they have tickets for a match. Employers who have already agreed to a number of holiday requests during the football tournament may want to ask all employees to submit any further requests for this period by a certain date, so they can all be reviewed at once. Organisations will need to ensure there is a fair system for granting the leave when there are too many requests for them to accommodate them all. This may be on a first come, first served basis or even drawing names out of a hat, but whatever system employers choose must be applied in a uniform and non-discriminatory fashion.
If it is not possible for an employer to accommodate the volume of requests for annual leave received, the business could consider alternative flexible arrangements to allow staff to come in later or start earlier, or perhaps allow staff to swap shifts. Employers could consider making TV screens available to staff, if this is technically possible, so they can watch matches they are particularly keen to see during working hours. Organisations doing this should make sure that employees understand that it must not compromise their work and should say clearly whether they have to:
Employers may also wish to make clear whether employees are allowed to watch the matches on the internet. This will involve checking the existing internet policy, and considering the effect that an increase in internet usage/streaming might have on IT systems at that time. If an employer decides not to let employees watch the Euros on the internet during working hours, the company should make it clear that doing so will be treated as a disciplinary matter.
Sickness absence can increase when large sporting events are televised during working hours. Employees with only minor illnesses may be more inclined to stay at home to watch TV coverage, or an employee who has not been granted the annual leave he or she has requested may be tempted to take the time off anyway. Employers need to manage such situations carefully and treat them in the same way as any other situation where there is doubt over the genuineness of an illness. They will need to carry out a full and thorough investigation before commencing any formal disciplinary proceedings.
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