Newsflash: Euro 2016 – avoid any own goals!

euro2016Footie fever is here again with Euro 2016 having kicked off this month on 10 June.  With three out of four home nations qualifying for the championship it goes without saying that most UK businesses will be impacted in some form. Therefore we thought we’d help keep you out of the penalty box by providing you with the latest ACAS HR/employment law guidance, available here and our own handy hints below.

As we’re already into the tournament, employers are hopefully by now managing to strike the balance between using Euro 2016 as a useful tool to win an employee engagement goal whilst preventing fouling by either side. In light of this we haven’t gone into great detail about how to deal with the big event, but instead provided you with a quick summary of the main points to look out for.

Our top tips for employers are:

  • manage employees’ expectations: Be clear on what you expect in terms of attendance and performance. If you haven’t already done so, we suggest telling all employees what will be considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in advance of the tournament.  By putting this in writing and making it available to all staff, everyone will be clear on where you stand.  Consider providing guidance on:
    • using company equipment for streaming matches and checking scores;
    • using email, internet and social media facilities; and
    • excessive use of personal mobile devices during the tournament.
  • sickness absence:  a likely rise in workplace absenteeism by employees who “pull a sickie” to watch matches means that a timely reminder on your sickness policy is due. If you suspect an employee has “pulled a sickie”, deal with this in accordance with your policy on sickness absence. Keep records and note any patterns which emerge (absence on the day or day after key matches for example) to assist the investigation.  Our May 2016 Newsletter Case update (1): Sickness absence – Pull a sickie at your peril updates you on a helpful recent case where the EAT decided that ‘pulling a sickie’ was dishonest and sufficient to amount to gross misconduct.
  • agree to requests for annual leave/flexible working if possible: If business commitments prevent this, be upfront with employees as to the reasons. Most importantly, be consistent with how you treat competing requests for leave. English male colleagues should not be prioritised. Women and non-England supporters should also be allowed to finish work early, or take time off, to watch games – whatever the national team they support.
  • consider allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the match at work:  Be clear that this is being done on a discretionary basis only. Importantly, remember that not all supporters will be England fans and requests to watch other matches should be dealt with in a fair and consistent manner to avoid potential claims of discrimination.
  • alcohol at work:   some employees may wish to have a drink or two whilst watching a match, particularly during lunchtime or when watching a match live in a pub.  If you have a strict no alcohol policy (for example if employees are in high risk jobs) we suggest reminding employees that anyone caught drinking at work or found to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures
  • zero-tolerance for bullying:  patriotism is likely to be running high throughout the Euro 2016 tournament and ‘banter’ between supporters of different teams can boost workplace morale. However, there is a danger that seemingly harmless banter can get out of hand. Employees should be reminded of the standards of conduct expected of them and that any bullying or harassment, particularly on the grounds of race, will not be tolerated.
  • health and safety:  if employers invite any clients or customers to watch a match on the employer’s premises, the employer should bear in mind its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and under the Occupiers’ Liability legislation. This means ensuring that the venue does not present any health and safety risks, and ensuring that employees and guests do not put themselves or others at risk either at or after the event, for example by drinking too much alcohol or entering any dangerous parts of the premises. Employers should also check that their insurance policies cover the event.

Overall, Euro 2016 is likely to be a great morale booster with the potential to unite the workplace. Hopefully ACAS’s guide and the above tips should help employers to keep their employees on-side and avoid having to use the red card!

 

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