Debbie Coyne: Managing Euro 2024 and staff leave

Euros 2024With Euro 2024 football fever sweeping the country, employers are once again facing the age-old conundrum of balancing productivity and business operations with giving their staff the chance to watch their nation at a major summer tournament.

Legally, employers are not obliged to provide time off for employees to watch Euro 2024 matches. However, anticipating and managing employee requests during the tournament can prevent disruptions.

With that in mind, employers should consider offering half-day unpaid leave to give employees the flexibility to watch their favourite matches without significantly impacting operational needs, and allowing employees to adjust their working hours, such as starting earlier or finishing later, to accommodate match schedules while maintaining productivity.

They should also consider being flexible with annual leave requests to help balance employees’ desires with business requirements. While these suggestions might not suit every organisation, maintaining a fair and balanced approach when granting or denying leave requests is crucial.

The morning after a big match, some employers may notice an increase in sick calls. It is essential to handle these absences according to standard procedures. Treat every absence as genuine unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Ensure employees comply with the sickness absence policy and honour any contractual sick pay entitlements.

If an employer suspects an absence is not genuine, perhaps due to social media posts of an employee celebrating, it is within its rights to inquire about the individual’s sickness. Questions such as whether they sought medical advice, or when the illness began can be appropriate. Conducting a return-to-work interview can also provide clarity. If doubts persist, seek HR or legal advice before initiating any disciplinary actions.

Employers must be cautious to avoid discrimination when handling time-off requests related to Euro 2024. If unpaid leave to watch matches is permitted, they should ensure this option is available for all nationalities participating in the tournament. This inclusive approach extends to temporary flexible-working arrangements, which should be uniformly offered to all employees. By treating all employees equitably, employers not only foster a positive workplace environment, but also mitigate the risk of discrimination claims.

Balancing business operations with employees’ enthusiasm for Euro 2024 requires a thoughtful approach. While some flexibility in leave policies can enhance employee morale, it is important to ensure these adjustments do not compromise functionality. Fair and consistent application of policies will help maintain workplace harmony and operational efficiency.

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While Euro 2024 poses potential challenges for employers, proactive planning and fair management can mean it becomes a chance to boost employee satisfaction without disrupting the business.

Debbie Coyne is a senior associate in the employment team at Aaron and Partners