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Avoiding Red Cards in the Workplace

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The European Cup 2016 is set to take place between Friday 10 June and Sunday 10 July.  Many of the games, including one between England and Wales, are being played during the working day.  

Large sporting events can often throw up a number of tricky issues for employers to consider and manage, from unauthorised absence of employees to inappropriate conduct on social media.  In advance of kick off, it is sensible to consider whether your business is Euro-ready and give some thought to how you might deal with certain issues that may crop up.

In recognition of this, ACAS, the government’s employment advisory service, has launched some helpful guidance on dealing with workplace issues that may arise during this time.  ACAS suggests that employers have agreements in place that cover a variety of issues, including requests for time off, sickness absence, website use during working hours or watching TV at work during this period.  This is certainly a sensible suggestion which should allow employers to be ready to deal with any particular issues that may arise during this time.

ACAS Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, said:

"There's another very important European event happening next month where passions are likely to run high...The Euro 2016 tournament is an exciting event for many football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period….Many businesses need to maintain a certain staffing level in order to survive. Employers should have a set of simple workplace agreements in place before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive whilst keeping staff happy too.”

Below are some of top tips suggested by ACAS for employers in dealing with certain issues that may arise as a result of the Euro’s:

  • Annual leave – ACAS points out that employers may wish to consider being a little more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period.  However, given the potential for extra requests around this time and depending on the type and size of your business, this may not always be possible to accommodate.  Any requests for annual leave should be considered fairly and in line with your employment policies.  A consistent approach is always recommended, and the same rules should apply when there are other major sporting events taking place.
  • Sickness absence – ACAS recommends monitoring attendance levels during this time in line with your company's attendance policy. As with any case of unauthorised absence, breach of this policy could result in disciplinary action for an employee.  Employers might also wish to monitor levels of sickness or late attendance in the event of any post-match celebrations, which has the potential to cause major disruption for businesses.  Employers who feel they are likely to encounter such problems might want to remind staff of any relevant policies and the consequence of breaching those policies, well in advance.
  • Flexibility – ACAS suggests that employer’s might want to consider a flexible working day around the time the competition is running, where employees might attend work a later or finish sooner and any lost time can be made up.  However this largely depends on the type of business in question and whether this is feasible, as some businesses simply will not be able to accommodate such changes. 

    Where changes can be accommodated, consistency in approach is always recommended to ensure there are no allegations of unfair or less favourable treatment amongst staff.  Certainly where even a small number of changes can be accommodated, this may have a number of positive effects in the workplace such as morale boosts and team bonding where matches are watched together.  Other options include allowing staff to listen to the radio whilst at work, or allowing the taking of breaks at certain times to be able to watch certain matches.  Such changes are entirely a matter for the employer and will no doubt be dependent upon whether a particular business is able to accommodate them.

  • Use of social media and websites – ACAS has indicated that there may be an increase in the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter or websites covering Euro 2016 during this time, which seems likely.  Employer’s should remain mindful of this as a possibility and consider how they might deal with this. 

    Regardless of major events such as the Euro’s, employers should have a policy on internet use and social media in the workplace and all employees should be clear on the parameters of this. Employee’s should be well aware of the consequences of breaching their employer’s social media or internet policy.  If there is to be any relaxing of the rules on social media use around this time, employers will need to be very clear as to the nature of any changes to the rules and how long such changes will apply for.

  • Drinking or being under the influence at work – ACAS sensibly points out that anyone caught drinking at work or under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures. It is always prudent to remind employees of such rules particularly around the time of large sporting occasions such as this.

Major sporting events such as this can be a fantastic opportunity to bring employees together and can offer a great morale boost amongst staff. Whatever you decide to do in your own business, following the above guidance should help employer’s avoid any red cards in the workplace.