How can employers avoid allegations of unfair and/or discriminatory treatment when allowing employees to take time off to watch major football tournaments?

Employers are unlikely to be in a position to grant all requests for time off to watch major tournaments such as the World Cup or European Championships. A large number of employees may request time off to watch key matches and these requests will compete with other holiday requests. The needs of the business must take precedence and employers will have to ensure that they deal with competing requests fairly. Employers should deal with requests for annual leave in the same way as they deal with requests for leave during other periods of high demand, such as during school holidays or the Christmas period.

Employees who consider that they have been treated unfairly may pursue a grievance. Employees may also claim that they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination (for example because of their sex, race or age) where the employer does not grant a request for time off. To avoid allegations of unfair and/or discriminatory treatment when either granting time off or allowing employees to take annual leave to watch matches, employers need to consider all requests fairly and consistently and not favour a particular group.

Employers should not discriminate when deciding for which matches to grant time off. If time off is to be granted to watch key England matches, it should also be granted to watch key matches involving other nations so that employees of different nationalities can follow their team.