As I’m sure you’re all aware… the 2016 UEFA European football championships (“Euro 2016”) begin tomorrow, with 51 matches due to be played in France over the course of the following month. Kick off times vary between 2pm and 8pm BST and some games are therefore being played during the working day, including the game between England and Wales which takes place on Thursday 16 June. As a result, ACAS has issued helpful guidance urging employers to plan ahead in order to minimise disruption.
The main issues identified by ACAS as being likely to affect employers during Euro 2016 are; i) requests for annual leave, ii) sickness absence; iii) use of internal and social media during working hours; and iv) drinking and/or being under the influence of alcohol at work.
So how can employers prepare?
Taking each potential issue of concern in turn, the ACAS guidance states that:
1) Annual Leave:
‘… Employers may wish to look at being more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period, with the understanding that this will be a temporary arrangement. Employees should remember that special arrangements may not always be possible. The key is for both parties to try and come to an agreement. All leave requests should be considered fairly by employers, and a consistent approach taken to other major sporting events in granting leave. Remember not everyone likes football !’
Employers should be mindful of their duties pursuant to the Equality Act 2010 and, specifically, should endeavour to ensure that no particular groups are disadvantaged or discriminated against (either directly or indirectly) during or as a result of annual leave due to the championships. As always, foreign employees should be afforded the same levels of flexibility as their English counterparts and, if employers decide to adopt certain temporary measures regarding annual leave during Euro 2016, they may also need to consider implementing similar measures during other major sporting events and offering the same opportunities to all employees.
2) Sickness absence:
‘ Organisations’ sickness policies will still apply during this time, and these policies should be operated fairly and consistently for all staff. Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the attendance policy so that any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could result in formal proceedings. This could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness, late attendance or lower levels of performance at work due to post event celebrations’.
Should any employers be concerned about potential levels of absence during the championship, one deterrent could be to remind employees of any sickness/absence policies applicable to them and to put all employees on notice that absence from work will be closely monitored during this period.
3) Use of social networking sites and websites:
‘There may be an increase in the use of social networking sites or sporting websites covering the European Cup. There may be problems around staff watching lengthy coverage via their computers or on personal devices. Employers should have a clear policy regarding web use in the workplace and the policy should be cascaded to all employees. If employers are monitoring internet usage then the data protection regulations require them to make it clear that it is happening to all employees. A web use policy should make clear what is and what is not acceptable usage’.
As well as informing employees that absences will be monitored over this period it may also be wise, at this point, for employers to remind employees of any workplace social media/IT policy(ies) which are applicable and will be enforced. Any excessive time-wasting and misuse of computer systems should be dealt with in accordance with the employer’s standard policy(ies).
4) Drinking or being under the influence of drink/drugs at work:
‘ Some people may like to participate in a drink or two while watching the match or may even go to the pub to watch a match live. It is important to remember that anyone caught drinking at work or found to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures. There may be a clear no alcohol policy at work and employees may need a reminder of this’.
Employers can remind their employees that anyone found to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures. If an employer has a ‘no alcohol policy’ at work, employees should be reminded of this.
Finally, adding a light hearted touch to the issues that will be faced by many employers during this period, the chair of ACAS Sir Brendan Barber has stated that: “The Euro 2016 tournament is an exciting event for many football fans, but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.”
If you require any assistance drafting or reviewing your workplace policies prior to Euro 2016, or find yourself faced with any employment related issues as the tournament progresses, please don’t hesitate to contact Adam Gray, Solicitor, on 0207 955 1518.