Do employers need a sporting event policy to manage the Euro 2020 championship?


Following last night’s heroics from the England football team, Business Leader spoke to Kate Palmer, Director of HR Advice, at Peninsula about the potential of introducing a sporting event policy that can be applied to all major sporting events.

The postponed UEFA EURO 2020 Championship began on 11 June 2021 with expectations high for teams and fans alike. Managers will be hard at work preparing their teams for success in this summer’s tournament.

At the same time employers should be taking the necessary precautions to manage their own staff and ensure provisions are in place to keep productivity levels high, especially when a big match falls on a working day.

Some employers may choose to create a specific sporting events policy to manage staff during big tournaments like the Euro 2020’s, and it can be applied to all major events, such as the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Olympic games. These policies will typically outline an organisation’s stance on a variety of issues including flexible working, internet usage, and general workplace conduct for the duration of the tournament.

Having a specific sporting events policy in place will help inform staff of any amendments to accepted working practices during the tournament and provide employers with the framework required to discipline those who fail to comply. With that being said, simply having a policy in place is just the first step and for any policy to be truly successful it must be communicated effectively. Therefore, those who do choose to create a new policy should ensure a copy of this is provided to staff well in advance, allowing them sufficient opportunity to review its contents and consider the practical implications prior to the tournament kick- off.

Effective communication is equally important for those who choose to rely on pre-existing workplace polices to guide employee behaviour. In these instances, employers should consider holding informal meetings with the wider workforce to reiterate what is expected of them during the tournament, this will also give them an opportunity to announce if there will be any relaxing of existing policies to better accommodate employees.

Employers must also take care to ensure that the guidelines inscribed in workplace policies are enforced in a fair and consistent manner. Sporting events policies will commonly cover rules surrounding annual leave, as employees may want time off to watch their favourite team’s matches – whichever country they support – and normal procedures should apply, for example, granting leave on a first come first serves basis. Staff may be permitted to watch matches in between shifts and during designated break periods and line managers must be vigilant to ensure they do not take advantage of this privilege.

Policies should cover situations where employees are working from home, particularly when it comes to issues where discrimination could arise. Where staff are working from home or hybrid working, it is advisable that if a dip in productivity is observed – in a male colleague, for example – employers do not just assume that this is because they are watching the football. Making such an assumption, and/or dismissing an employee on that basis, without following a proper procedure could lead to claims of discrimination or unfair dismissal. Instead, line managers can manage the situation on a case-by-case basis, taking the employee’s specific situation into account – it may be that they are experiencing burnout or stress.

It is clear that implementing a sporting events policy will be useful in maintaining workplace productivity during a major tournament such as the Euro’s, particularly for organisations who have struggled to manage employee performance in the past. However, as well as simply creating the policy, employers must make sure that they adequately inform staff of any new policies and make concerted efforts to enforce the policy’s guidelines in a consistent manner, ensuring that it is applied equally to those working in the office and from home.