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Euro finals – fun for all or a headache for employers?

Petitions are circulating on social media to make Monday 12th July a bank holiday in celebration of England reaching the finals of Euro 2020 and in anticipation of a victory over Italy. However, fun aside, it has the potential to cause a headache for employers, so how can they deal with the issues that arise from any staff absences, which may affect their ability to maintain business as usual for customers and clients?

Whilst many businesses are closed at 8pm on a Sunday evening when the game is played, there will be many more planning for the next day, so ensuring staff arrive on time and are able to work is essential.

As a starting point it is a good idea to remind all staff of the company policy for requesting time off and notification of sickness absence. 

Yes, it is a once in a 55-year event, but an employer does not have to accept a holiday request and it is important that all staff are treated fairly and consistently.  If you do decide to make allowances for changes in hours to accommodate watching the game on Sunday or starting later the following day, then it is important that it is stressed that this is a temporary arrangement and that employers deal with other staff requests which are not football related with similar sympathy. Die-hard tennis fans might argue that the Men’s final at Wimbledon on Sunday is equally as important to them and should be treated with the same consideration.

Without seeking to make assumptions about the gender of football fans, it is likely that if an employer has agreed to a small alteration in hours for many male employees, then a refusal of a request for the alteration to a female member of staff’s hours for other reasons could lead to claims of discrimination in the future.

If the company is going to take a hard line in relation to sickness absence, it is important that the employees are told about this prior to the event and that the procedure does not depart from any contractual scheme.  Employers will have to be very sure of their facts to take disciplinary action and in any event should be careful to follow the statutory disciplinary procedures, to avoid a trip to the employment tribunal.

And what of the worst-case scenario happens, for example an employee attending the match or watching it in a pub is then involved in violence or there is another incident involving a laser pen.  What can the employer do then?  The answer is not as straightforward as you might imagine.  Behaviour which takes place in an employees’ own time may not give an employer sufficient justification for dismissal.  Past cases have shown that irrespective of the need to follow the correct procedures an employer has to carefully consider all aspects of the situation including the employee’s version of events and their employment history with the company. Harder now with so much shared on multiple social media platforms which can ‘go viral’.

If you have any questions about how to tackle this issue with employees, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Amanda Finn is a partner at Gullands Solicitors and can be contacted at T: 01622 689700