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Is it coming home?

England have secured their place in the Euros Quarter Finals after defeating Germany on Tuesday and the nation are daring to dream that football might be coming home. Whilst many of us are looking forward to watching England progress in the tournament, it can prove to be a headache for employers.

Unauthorised Absences

While the next match is on a Saturday, there are still some employers who may come across staff pulling unauthorised “sickies”.

Employers should make staff aware in advance how Euro related unauthorised absence will be dealt with and consider measures to act as a deterrent. Examples could include greater scrutiny of absences during the tournament, carrying out return to work interviews for all absences and taking disciplinary action for the worst offenders. Employers should also review contracts and handbooks to ascertain whether they have the ability to withhold pay for unauthorised absence. However, any deductions from salary need to be justifiable as the employee could make a claim to the Employment Tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages.

Employers could consider taking steps to minimise unauthorised absence by implementing schemes to accommodate staff watching games including allowing employees to finish slightly early to get home in time for kick-off or permitting shift swaps. However, it is important that employers make sure that the business can reasonably function with such changes.

Alcohol

During the tournament, the consumption of alcohol is likely to be higher, which may result in more self-inflicted days off, lateness or reduced performance in the workplace on days following matches. Having an alcohol policy in place is essential as it allows employers to make it clear to employees what will and will not be tolerated in relation to being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace and other alcohol related issues.

Holiday Requests

There is likely to be an increase in holiday requests. Employers should ensure that when they are considering requests, they act fairly and consistently. Any decision should be based on non-discriminatory criteria and employers should consider dealing with a high volume of requests on a ‘first come first served’ basis or using a rota system.

Social Media and Internet usage

The widespread use of social media and the availability to access social media and stream matches on a number of platforms whilst at work can create potential problems.

Employers should ensure that they direct employees to their social media and IT policies during the tournament. If there is no existing policy in place, now would be an ideal time to implement one in order to point out to employees what is and is not acceptable and how any breaches of such policies will be dealt with.

‘Banter’ or Discrimination

A further potential issue for employers is the risk of discrimination claims arising in the workplace.

Patriotism often runs high during major football championships but it is important for employers to ensure that ‘banter’ between employees of competing nationalities does not stray into offensive remarks being made based upon a person’s nationality.

Equally, employers should treat all employees the same when granting requests for holidays or early finishes.  If English fans are allowed to finish early, supporters of a different nationality wanting to support their team should likewise have their requests granted.

Employers are vicariously liable for acts of their employees during the course of employment but can establish a defence by showing that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination taking place. This could include additional guidance issued in line with an equal opportunities policy, equal opportunities training or swift disciplinary action in light of employee conduct.

Whilst it is essential for employers to protect themselves against issues which may arise, it is also possible to use the Euros as an opportunity to boost team morale. For example, employers could hold company staff events or allow employees to finish early in order to watch matches.

We also want to wish the England team the best of luck for Saturday night!

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