Major sporting events can present employers with a number of employee relations challenges. With the Euros kicking off in a matter of weeks, Angela Carter, Director of Legal Services at employment law and HR consultancy firm, WorkNest advises on how employers can ensure workplace harmony during the tournament and avoid any employment law own goals.

Let’s be honest. Wherever possible, employers should consider embracing the football fever that is set to sweep the nation once again, as it can provide an opportunity to bring teams together through a shared sense of excitement, camaraderie and competition. Adopting a flexible approach, for example permitting employees to watch key matches on a big screen at work or allowing them to finish early, can boost employee morale and actually enhance productivity.

But sometimes the excitement and passion can take over and employers find themselves faced with potential legal issues such as employees failing to show up for work or exhibiting inappropriate behaviour during and after matches.

Sunday sickies and no-shows

With many matches kicking off at 8pm, it won’t be a surprise if managers are faced with employees calling in sick or simply not showing up for work the following day.

In the case of absences the next morning, follow your company’s absenteeism policy. Try not to jump to conclusions without clear evidence and approach the employee privately and enquire about their absence, rather than immediately accusing them.

However, if an employee is posting pictures on social media enjoying a match during their supposed sick leave, this should be dealt with as a disciplinary issue. Follow a fair disciplinary process that involves gathering evidence and giving the employee an opportunity to explain their side of the story.

The level of punishment will be determined by the facts but could potentially include dismissal without notice.

Addressing late arrivals

Given games and potential celebrations will be running well into the evening, employers should also be prepared to address late arrivals the following day.

Setting expectations ahead of time will help to prevent issues. Communicate the importance of punctuality and remind employees that their lateness affects team cohesion and the smooth running of business operations.

Approach any late arrivals with a balanced perspective. While understanding that occasional delays can happen, discuss the impact of consistent lateness on the team and the business. Consider using progressive disciplinary measures for repeated tardiness, including verbal warnings and written notifications if necessary.

Post-match hangovers

How about employees that turn up for work on time but are worse for wear? Again, proactivity is key. Promote accountability by establishing clear guidelines on alcohol consumption before workdays and encourage employees to plan their schedules responsibly, accounting for potential post-event fatigue.

If an employee does arrive at work hungover, it is important to handle the situation discreetly and professionally. First, ensure that their behaviour does not pose a safety risk to themselves or others. If their condition is affecting their ability to perform their duties, consider assigning them less critical tasks for the day.

Avoid embarrassment or confrontation; instead, have a private conversation to remind them of workplace expectations and the impact of their condition on their performance. Isolated incidents might be addressed through a more informal conversation or a reminder of company policies. However, if such behaviour happens repeatedly and affects the workplace and its operations, it could potentially lead to formal disciplinary measures.

Managing inappropriate behaviour and discrimination

Employers may also face issues with employees who show up to work drunk or under the influence of alcohol due to the event. This might be particularly relevant to those working shifts outside of conventional office hours. Such behaviour not only disrupts operations but also compromises workplace safety.

Here, it is important to set clear expectations. Communicate your company’s policy on alcohol consumption during work hours or before shifts. Remind employees of their responsibility to maintain professionalism and adhere to workplace policies, even during celebratory times.

Employers should also be mindful that not everyone will be supporting the same team during the Euros and sporting rivalries can give rise to accusations of discrimination. It is highly advisable to send all employees a memo which reminds them what is expected from them to keep grievances at bay. This not only applies to comments and actions in the workplace – employees should also be warned about posting offensive posts and images about their colleagues on social media.

Balancing business needs and employee wellbeing

As the tournament approaches, employers must be prepared to navigate attendance and behaviour challenges while balancing their business requirements with the wellbeing of their employees. And just like in the Euros, achieving that goal requires strategic planning and teamwork.

Prevention, clear communication, and a fair disciplinary process can help maintain a positive workplace environment and keep disruptions to a minimum. So, keep your eyes on the goal – a harmonious workplace long after the final whistle blows.