Employers urged to prepare for Euro 2016 - or face the penalties

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Leading law firm Blake Morgan has warned employers to ensure they have policies in place to manage staff who decided to “pull sickies” to watch England matches.

Tim Forer, a partner in the employment team at the firm’s Portsmouth and Southampton offices, warns that the tournament, which begins on June 10, could lead to disruption for businesses. 

Big sporting tournaments often lead to more staff than usual trying to book time off – and those who are refused could be tempted to call in sick. 

A number of games during the month-long championship will be played during working hours and, crucially, the match between England and Wales takes place on Thursday, 16 June with a 2pm kick off.  

Tim warned employers: “Unfortunately, sickness absence in the workplace often increases when large sporting events are televised during working hours. 

“Employees with only minor illnesses may be more inclined to stay at home to watch TV coverage, or it might be an employee who has not been granted the annual leave they requested.  

“You will need to carefully manage such situations and treat them in the same way as any other situation when there is doubt over the genuineness of the sickness. You will need to carry out a full and thorough investigation before commencing formal disciplinary proceedings.” 

There is no automatic right for an employee to have time off just because they have tickets for a match. 

However, employees have the right to request paid annual leave from work.  

Employers may already have agreed to a number of holiday requests and may want to ask all employees to submit any further requests for this period by a certain date so that they can all be reviewed to decide which requests can be granted.  

They should there is a fair system for allowing annual leave. This may be on a first come first served basis or even by drawing names out of a hat when there are too many requests to accommodate, but whatever system is decided upon, it must be applied in a uniform and non-discriminatory fashion. 

Another option is to consider alternative flexible arrangements to allow staff to come in later or start earlier, using breaks to watch the matches and then working back the time, or allowing staff to swap shifts.  

For employers considering screening matches in the workplace, Tim advises making it clear staff must make up the time, obtain their manager’s permission before watching an event and give advance warning of their wish to do this.  

Tim adds: “It’s important to make sure they understand that it must not compromise their work. You may also wish to make it clear to employees whether or not they are allowed to watch the Euros on the internet.   

“You will need to check your internet policy, and consider the effect that an increase in internet usage/streaming might have on IT systems at that time.  

If employees are not allowed to watch the Euros on the internet during working hours you should make it clear that if any employees are found doing so, this will be a disciplinary matter. 

Tim added that large sporting events such as Euro 2016 can be great opportunities for staff to enjoy time together and to help boost morale. 

He said: “This is an exciting time for football fans. As long as you thought about the issues that may arise in your workplace and are prepared for them there’s no reason why everyone can’t enjoy the tournament while also ensuring that all your business needs are met.”