Employers' guide to Euro 2020: Five goals for your workplace

Author: Stephen Simpson

The delayed UEFA football European championships - Euro 2020 - start on Friday 11 June 2021, with 51 matches being played over the course of one month. Employers should plan ahead to make the most of the positive impact that this large sporting event can have on staff mental health and morale. However, employers also need to take steps to minimise disruption, particularly as a number of games take place during normal office hours and in the early evening.

Euro 2020: resources for employers

Policy on sporting events

How to deal with issues arising from major sporting events

Employers are likely to see a significant amount of interest among their workforce in the Euros, particularly given that:

  • England, Scotland and Wales have all qualified for the tournament (and are guaranteed three games each at the group stage);
  • all of the biggest nations in Europe have qualified (including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia); and
  • several games are taking place at Wembley and Hampden Park in Glasgow (including the semi-finals and final at Wembley).

The top two from each group qualify for the knock-out stage, plus the four third-placed teams with the best record in the group stage. England and Scotland have been drawn together in the same group and face each other on Friday 18 June at 8pm.

1. Leverage Euro 2020 to boost staff morale

With mental health being high on the agenda, employers can use the tournament to raise their workforce's morale. Provided that operational needs allow and coronavirus restrictions are followed, employers can:

  • screen key matches in the workplace;
  • allow employees to watch games together during working hours (for remote workers, this could include arranging remote "watch-alongs");
  • permit special decorations to be temporarily displayed in workplaces (such as flags of participating countries); and
  • temporarily relax dress codes (for example allowing football shirts to be worn).

2. Increase working hours flexibility during the tournament

To further improve morale and boost employee relations, employers may permit temporary changes to working patterns to allow employees to watch games. For example, employers could let employees:

  • finish early to watch an early-evening game; or
  • take a couple of hours off to watch a match and make up the lost time later.

Employers may see an increase in holiday requests from employees who want time off to watch matches. For instance, an employee might ask to take a half day to watch an afternoon game. Employers could be flexible with holiday requests - for example by allowing requests at short notice where this is feasible.

3. Maintain workforce productivity during the matches

Euro 2020: FAQs

What should an employer do if it suspects that an employee's reported sickness absence is not genuine?

How should employers deal with employees who turn up for work drunk or hungover?

What should an employer do if an employee is detained in police custody due to alleged football hooliganism?

Some employers may experience a reduction in productivity because employees are watching matches when they should be working.

With up to three games on some days, this could become a particular problem where the employee is working from home and the employer has less control over their activities during working hours.

It is a good idea for employers to remind employees in advance of the Euros, or in advance of key games, about not watching the football when they should be working.

Employers can also warn employees about unauthorised absence, for example pulling a sickie to watch games, or taking sick leave on the day after a game because they have overindulged.

4. Beware risk of discrimination during Euro 2020

Employers need to beware of the potential discrimination issues that could arise. In particular, employers should ensure that:

  • if they offer special arrangements for home nation fans, such as increased flexible working, they offer the same arrangements to fans from other countries; and
  • staff are made aware that harassment linked to the event, for example hostile or racist remarks about a particular country, will not be tolerated.

The match between England v Scotland on Friday 18 June (8pm) is one where a friendly rivalry could easily spill over into something more unpleasant. In advance of that game, employers in England and Scotland could make employees aware of the standards of behaviour expected of them before, during and after the match.

5. Remind employees of their responsibilities outside work

Crowds are expected to be allowed to attend matches at the majority of venues, meaning that some employees will be at games. Other employees will be watching matches in pubs and public places such as fan parks, where alcohol will be plentiful.

Given the wide exposure that Euro 2020 will get in the media and how quickly news of incidents can spread on social media, it is a good idea for employers to remind employees that they should behave themselves outside work when watching the football. This is because an employee's actions at a Euro 2020 event have the potential to damage an employer's reputation and negatively affect its business.

It has long been established that employers can take disciplinary action for misconduct outside work and this is a potentially fair reason for dismissal. In the leading case Post Office v Liddiard, the Court of Appeal accepted that an employee was fairly dismissed after his involvement in football hooliganism brought his employer into disrepute.