National sporting events can be a big morale booster (at least as long as the relevant team stays in the competition) but they can also disrupt the workplace if not managed properly.

Kicking off on Friday 10th June, Euro 2016 is bound to capture the interest of much of the working population in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland. National sporting events can be a big morale booster (at least as long as the relevant team stays in the competition) but they can also disrupt the workplace if not managed properly. This note gives practical advice to help employers manage employee issues which may arise in relation to the Euro 2016 matches.

Requests to leave early

A number of the matches start at 5pm on weekdays so employers should anticipate and plan for how to deal with requests to leave early on those days. This can be an opportunity for employers to build up goodwill with employees, for example by allowing employees to make up the time at the start of the day or over lunchtime if operational needs allow, and employers could also consider setting up screens at work so employees can watch matches there.

Holiday requests

As with other major sporting events, employers may experience a higher number of holiday requests than usual. These should be dealt with in the normal way, on a first come, first served basis and employers should not show any preference for some requests over others, as this could be deemed discriminatory.

No team preference

It is important to treat all requests for holiday or time off in the same way, regardless of which team is playing.

Euro 2016-itis

Kick off for some of the games (including England v Wales) is 2pm. What if employees are absent or ill on the day of a match? Employees may be less likely to take non-genuine sickness absence if their employer provides a degree of flexibility. So for example employers could let employees follow matches at work to some extent. Absence is also less likely to be an issue if employers make employees aware that absences are monitored, and that any unauthorised absence will be addressed and may result in disciplinary action.

Employers should not automatically assume that absence around the time of big matches is not genuine, however. They should investigate the particular circumstances (including considering the employee's explanations and any evidence for the absence, such as doctor's notes) before deciding whether or not disciplinary action is appropriate.

Lateness: The morning after the night before

What about employees who come in late the day after a big match? Employee contracts and handbooks should set out expectations in relation to timekeeping and hours of work more generally. If employees arrive late, it is open to employers to take action in the normal way, by speaking to employees about this initially on an informal basis and then taking more formal action if their timekeeping does not improve. In practice and, within reason, however, employers may choose not to take a stringent approach to "one-off" lateness, especially if the employee regularly works longer hours than required.

What if employees arrive at work intoxicated?

It will normally be appropriate to immediately suspend the employee, sending them home in order to investigate the reasons for this. This might include, for example, identifying whether there are any underlying reasons for this (such as alcoholism) before taking appropriate action, which may include disciplinary action.

Off duty conduct

If employees are suspected of hooliganism or other inappropriate behaviour outside work, employers should not automatically assume that such behaviour must automatically lead to disciplinary action and should take advice before taking such a step. Considerations will include whether the behaviour has any connection with the employee's work, including the extent to which the employee's behaviour may bring the organisation into disrepute, bearing in mind both the nature of their behaviour and their role.

Discrimination

Healthy banter between employees can help build team spirit and morale, benefitting the team and the wider organisation. Employers should, however, be alive to the risk of harassment or discrimination where rivalries based on national teams lead to employees creating a hostile, degrading or intimidating environment for others, in which case employers should take appropriate action.

Company IT tools

Finally, employers might be tempted to go with the flow and allow their employees to watch the big matches while at work. Whether that means providing a TV or allowing employees to use IT systems, they should issue guidance on what is allowed. For example, employers should communicate that any such use must not be excessive and should not interfere with business needs and requirements and any limitations on what can or cannot be viewed/downloaded to work systems.

Fixtures – England and Wales

Wales v Slovakia 5.00pm Saturday 11 June
England v Russia 8.00pm Saturday 11 June
England v Wales 2.00pm Thursday 16 June
Slovakia v England 8.00pm Monday 20 June
Russia v Wales 8.00pm Monday 20 June