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