Euro 2012: are you being sporting about it?

Are you allowing your staff to leave early to watch football matches

And what are the legal requirements?

All the talk this summer is of the Jubilee and the Olympics, but England is also involved in another significant sporting event: the European football championships. You may have formulated holiday policies to allow staff to attend or watch the Olympics, but what about Euro 2012?

The championships take place in Poland and the Ukraine, and start on Friday 8 June 2012. Between 8 and 15 June there are games every day at 5 p.m. and 7.45pm, after which all games will be at 7.45pm. One of the 5pm games includes England v France on Monday 11 June 2012.

In these circumstances requests from staff to be allowed to leave early, or watch the game while at work, can be expected. But do you have to agree legally? The answer is that there is no obligation on an employer to allow staff time off or away from their duties to watch a sporting event. An employer can simply require staff to work their contracted hours and to focus on their duties rather than be on the internet trying to watch a game.

Alternatively, allowing staff to watch the event is a way of showing flexibility and maintaining morale in the office. In either case, it is advisable to have a clear policy on the matter so that staff know what to expect and therefore what they will or will not be permitted to do.

Employers who are inclined to allow staff to watch the matches may consider allowing staff to leave early to do so. 5pm is not that far from the end of most people’s working days, so allowing staff to finish early may be a simple option. Employees could come in early in order to leave early, take shorter lunch breaks (remembering always that staff must take at least a 20-minute break for health and safety and working time regulations purposes), or make up time on other days.

Another option is to watch matches in the workplace. While this may seem a good idea, the resulting raucous sounds may interfere with business calls and work done by others not interested, so some checks could be put in place.

Make sure that everyone is allowed the same facility. So for example, a Polish employee may wish to have the same arrangement in place for the opening 5pm game against Greece on Friday 8 June 2012, as is offered the following Monday to English staff. Don’t discriminate. Also, don’t forget that if you allow concessions for football you may be setting a precedent for requests to watch other attractive events – for example, Wimbledon. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, after all. Tread carefully and enjoy.

For any more information or advice on establishing policies for viewing sporting events, please call Debbie Francis on 01273 236236

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