Balancing Work and Play, HR Tips for Managing Productivity During Euro 2024

As anticipation builds for the Euro 2024 football tournament, taking place from June 14 to July 14, 2024, HR teams are gearing up to tackle the challenges of maintaining productivity and staffing levels amidst the excitement.

With matches scheduled predominantly on weekdays, employers recognise the need to proactively manage potential disruptions to the workday while also accommodating employees’ enthusiasm for the event.

Kick off times for group matches have been scheduled for 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. Many employees will be in work during these times and this could have serious implications for employers, such as increases in holiday requests, unauthorised absences, staff being intoxicated at work and/or inappropriate conduct by staff.

Here are some tips to help with any potential issues that may arise.

  • See the tournament as an opportunity: Handled correctly, embracing the football period could help with employee engagement without having a detrimental impact on productivity. Actively addressing how the tournament sits along work commitments means that a balance can be struck between getting work done without the football acting as a distraction.
  • Be flexible: Where possible, and within reason, allow employees to adjust their hours or place of work to accommodate them watching certain matches. This may necessitate longer or later lunch breaks, adjusting start and finish times, tweaking rotas, or switching work from home days. The requirements for approval should be made clear, as should whether (and if so, how) any lost hours should be made up, or taken out of annual leave entitlements. If this style of flexibility is not an option, can you allow staff to tune into the internet or radio to have the match on in the background whilst they are working?
  • Accommodate annual leave: Managers should be prepared for short notice requests for (or cancellations of) annual leave, particularly in the later stages of the tournament, and be timely, understanding and consistent when considering such requests, even if they fall outside any usual holiday approval protocols.
  • Monitor sickness absence: Absence on days of, or the day after, certain matches may give rise to concerns about whether the sickness is genuine, or has been brought about due to the fixtures or for example, excess alcohol the night before. While employers should not be quick to make assumptions, and a one-off may be tolerated, inappropriate, repeated or regular absences demonstrating a pattern of behaviour may need to be addressed through sickness or, if appropriate, disciplinary policies. Employers should consider making it clear to their staff that unauthorised absences will be unpaid and may lead to action being taken under their disciplinary policy. Consider the use of return-to-work interviews to help identify and address non-genuine sickness absence.
  • Working from home: Employers inevitably have less visibility and control over staff who are working from home so it would be harder to monitor if they are watching football when they are meant to be working. However, homeworkers and hybrid workers are generally trusted when working remotely, and many are afforded some flexibility over their working patterns. Any concerns about unauthorised absence or poor performance should be addressed in the company’s usual way.
  • Create a sense of community: Consider whether to make a space available for people to watch matches together, providing scope for networking as well as the game. You may need to consider if the workplace has appropriate licences for this. Employers should also remember staff who are less interested in watching a match but may nevertheless want to get into the spirit of things and consider arranging activities linked to football or participating countries. Allowing staff to watch or listen at their desks (if available) may help keep on the good side of staff who are less interested.
  • Beware of discrimination, bullying and harassment risks: Employers should avoid focussing flexibility or events around matches only involving certain countries and be mindful of comments or behaviour that may arise between supporters of different teams or when talking about particular players. Similarly, some workers may object to the tournament’s location based on concerns about gender equality and other social issues. Employers should promote diversity, inclusivity and endorse a culture of respect, taking proactive steps to addressing any concerns if and as they arise.
  • Introduce a policy: A policy or statement that sets out the employer’s expectations about what is, and what is not, acceptable during the tournament, any temporary rules in place, and the extent to which arrangements are company-wide, office-wide, or at a manager’s discretion, will help employees and managers alike understand the position. Any policy should be clearly communicated and applied consistently.

Businesses should be clear on their expectations and make these known to staff as soon as possible. This will help to reduce issues later in the tournament as we cannot certainly predict who will win in the group stages.

For help and assistance in drafting policies or for advice and assistance regarding any HR and employment law issue, please contact our Employment Law team on 01204 527777 (Bolton) or 01254 268790 (Blackburn) or at