Football pitch

Euro 2016 starts tomorrow (Friday 10th June) and with kick off times varying from 2pm to 8pm, there are some issues that employers might face during the tournament.

Are you obliged to allow employees time off for matches?

You are not obliged to allow time off for any reason connected with the tournament, whether to watch a game or attend a pre-game social.

However, a blanket refusal may be counterproductive. Euro 2016 might be an opportunity to improve employee engagement and productivity by allowing staff to watch or listen to matches or obtain score updates during working hours.

What is the best option for your business?

There are many ways to accommodate employee requests, such as permitting annual leave, unpaid leave, shift swaps, or flexible working (including early finish or late starts).

The key is to advise staff of your approach at the outset. If you allow time off, don’t limit your approach to England supporters. Apply it to all nationalities to avoid potential discrimination claims.

What if an employee fails to attend work or calls in sick and you suspect that the absence is because the employee is watching a match?

This may be an inevitable consequence of some kick off times. Unauthorised absence or abuse of your sickness policy is a serious matter.

Make it clear to staff at the outset that you will monitor absences and any absence on match days will be treated with suspicion and that a fit note or other medical evidence will be required, whatever the length of absence. This may be a sufficient deterrent.

Carry out a return to work interview on the employee’s return. Avoid jumping to conclusions, but if appropriate, progress matters using your disciplinary procedure.

What if you suspect that an employee is drunk at work after a game?

Being under the influence of alcohol at work is a serious health and safety issue and should be dealt with in the normal way.

If your contracts and policies allow for alcohol testing, undertake those tests. Alternatively, obtain the views of at least two others that the employee is drunk. If you are satisfied, suspend the employee. You should then follow the normal disciplinary procedure.

Can staff to watch matches via the internet or on smart phones?

If many employees stream a match to their desktop or smart phones via your internet connection, it could cause networks to crash and affect productivity levels. Consider re-circulating internet/ IT policies to staff explaining what is expected of them and that any breaches will be dealt with under your disciplinary procedure.

Can you keep the workplace open late or arranging a work social event to watch a match?

If you're considering inviting customers to your workplace to watch a match, check any insurance policies to ensure that they cover the event. Be aware of obligations under health and safety/ occupiers liability legislation, particularly if there are hazardous areas that guests could wander into and be injured.

If you're organising a staff social, either at work or an external venue, remind staff of the behaviour expected, including a warning not to drink too much alcohol. Remember, these events are an extension of the workplace and you may be liable for employees' conduct.

What if you overhear inappropriate banter about nationality, or you receive a complaint that someone has been offended?

Deal with it using grievance or disciplinary procedures. Euro 2016 is not an excuse for inappropriate behaviour. Investigations should be undertaken and where appropriate disciplinary action should be taken.

Should you allow flags, team shirts etc on desks during the tournament?

This is up to you and what you think is appropriate, having regard to any health and safety issues. It is advisable to have guidelines on what is acceptable.

If you want to allow this, treat everyone consistently and advise staff of the rules in advance. If you have concerns, or believe that the items could cause workplace tensions, it might be better to consider a ban. Any complaints should be dealt with under your grievance or disciplinary procedures.

By Chris Kisby, employment law partner at Shakespeare Martineau