With the delayed Euro 2020 football championship starting today, it is essential to plan for the effects that this may have upon your business.

We outline below how to strike the right balance, enabling you to take advantage of events like this to boost employee morale whilst maintaining productivity levels.

Impact of the Euro 2020

It is likely that a significant proportion of your workforce will be interested in the delayed Euro 2020, given it is a major football tournament involving England, Scotland and Wales, as well as the largest European nations.

Several matches are set to take place in the UK, including the semi-final and final held at Wembley.

How to get the most out of major sporting events

Major sporting events like the Euro 2020 present employers with the opportunity to boost employee morale and support their mental health.

This can be very beneficial to your business, particularly given the negative impact that the Covid-19 pandemic will undoubtedly have had upon employees.

We recommend implementing the following strategies (to the extent that Covid restrictions allow) to increase job satisfaction and reward staff for their efforts during these difficult times.

Boosting staff morale 

There are many simple yet effective ways that you can use sports events like the Euro 2020 to increase workforce morale.

For example, you could:

  • Play major matches on TVs or computer screens in the workplace
  • Organise viewings of such matches taking place during working hours
  • Allow employees to decorate the office, such as displaying flags
  • Permit staff to wear football shirts or dress in the colour of the team they support

Inevitably, these measures may not be appropriate in all work settings, but they are easy ways to allow staff to enjoy the event whilst at work without causing too much disruption to the business.

Temporary flexibility regarding working hours

If you expect a significant interest in the Euro 2020 amongst your staff, you could temporarily make working hours more flexible, to enable supporters to enjoy the championship.

For example, you could allow employees to leave work early to watch matches or permit them to take an extended lunch break and make up the time later.

Whether this approach is feasible in your business will, of course, depend upon operational requirements.

However, any disruption caused by temporary changes to working hours may be worthwhile as a measure to reduce unauthorised absence resulting from the event.

Potential issues to be aware of

Although your support of major sporting events like the Euro 2020 can be beneficial to your business, it can, in turn, create issues that need to be addressed appropriately.

Annual leave

Inevitably football fans will request to take annual leave so that they can support their team and not miss out on key matches.

You may decide to relax your holiday request procedure in light of this, so that a shorter period of notice is required to take a half-day off to watch a match.

The problem is that you may receive a flood of requests to take annual leave at the same time.

Depending upon your staffing requirements, you may not be able to accommodate all these requests.

We advise adopting the same approach to holiday requests as during other peak times of the year, such as Christmas and school holidays. 

You may decide to take a ‘first come, first served’ approach and approve the first requests that you receive.

If this is the approach to choose, you should make this clear to employees to manage their expectations.

You must also bear in mind that holiday requests may be made by employees for other reasons, and these requests should not be treated any less favourably as doing so may amount to discrimination.

Unauthorised absence

You may experience heightened employee absence levels during major sport events, particularly when annual leave requests are denied due to high demand.

Therefore, we recommend putting in place additional measures to discourage and detect unauthorised absence.

For example, you could require all employees who are absent during the event to attend a return-to-work interview to discuss the reasons for their absence as a deterrent against false sickness reporting.

Having said this, it is important not to automatically consider that any sickness absence during this time is not legitimate.

It can be very difficult to fairly decide whether an employee is absent from work in respect of genuine sickness, particularly when they are only off work for a day or two.

This is because it is not feasible for employees to obtain medical evidence to support short-term absences, so this cannot be used as an effective way to determine whether absence is genuine or not.

You should only initiate the disciplinary procedure, if following an investigation, you reasonably believe that the employee’s absence was unauthorised or if there is a clear pattern of excessive short-term absence.

Performance

You may notice a lapse in employee performance during this time because they are spending too much time keeping up with events and not focusing on their work.

This may be exacerbated by the fact that employees are working from home without much supervision.

We advise reminding employees of the standards you expect and warning them that if the football becomes too much of a distraction any special arrangements may be withdrawn, and individuals may be subject to formal action.

Misconduct

If you believe that misconduct may arise because of the sporting event, you could take the opportunity to remind employees of your relevant policies.

For example, you may be concerned about employees turning up to work under the influence of alcohol or suffering the effects of overindulging the night before throughout the working day.

If this is the case, you could reissue your drugs and alcohol policy to employees and reaffirm your expectations in this regard.

There is also the risk that an employee’s behaviour outside of work will impact upon your business, particularly given the media attention on big events and the influence of social media.

For example, if an employee is involved in football hooliganism or seen being drunk and disorderly, it may reflect poorly upon the business, harming your reputation and damaging client relationships.

Generally, an employee’s life outside of work is none of your business, but if their behaviour brings the company into disrepute, you may be able to fairly discipline or dismiss them, depending on the circumstances.

Discrimination 

Several discrimination issues could arise in the workplace due to a sporting event:

Sex discrimination against female employees. You should announce any temporary adjustments and arrangements to the entire workforce and not make assumptions about who will be interested, such as aiming measures towards men rather than women.

Unfavourable treatment of uninterested employees. You must be careful to ensure that any perks you introduce for the benefit of football fans do not inadvertently disadvantage employees who are not interested in the tournament, as this may amount to discrimination depending on their protected characteristics.

Discrimination against fans of other nations. All football fans should be treated in the same way. For example, if employees are permitted to leave work early to watch England matches, employees who support other teams should be allowed to watch their key matches also.

There is also a risk that friendly rivalry can escalate into hostile and offensive behaviour. Therefore, you should monitor employee’s conduct in the workplace and remind staff of your anti-bullying and harassment policy.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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