From the TUC

Getting the work-football balance right

13 Jun 2016, By

The 2016 European cup is already underway and a very sizable proportion of the country will be football fanciers for the next few weeks. So many people at work will want to watch the matches, so wise employers will have a plan for this.

To give you an idea of how much excitement the European cup could generate, the 2012 games drew an average of 13 million viewers in the UK, whilst the England games drew between 16 and 23 million viewers. To grasp the scale, viewing figures for a single programme on UK TV don’t usually go much above 8 million.

The TUC has published new guidance to help employees and staff to consider how they can get the best out of the event.

Smart employers will want to boost morale and avoid absenteeism, staff who want to follow the games would like to see their passion recognised and be treated fairly (and of course wise employers will want to think about using the same principles for other things that workers want to do).

The main prescription is, as always, that employers should talk to workers and their unions and work out how to get to a win-win outcome. Deal with the issue now, don’t wait until half-time.

Flexible working is the easiest away to allow football fans to see the game without losing productive time. As well as flexible working and homeworking, temporally moving start and finish times could help. Consider allowing staff to come in early so that they can finish their work before the kick-off.

It’s also worth remembering that more than 5.8 million employees work evenings or weekend and many of them will also want to watch the matches. TV games kick-off at various times, with some matches starting 2 pm, including England vs Wales. Here is a Euro 2016 TV guide to help.

As some of the games will start at 5PM UK time, employers may consider whether they could set up a TV screen so that employees could watch the game with their colleagues at work.

Remember also that some fans will actually be travelling to France to see the games. Employers should also be as flexible as they can with football-related annual leave requests.

And note that there are a fair number of people in the UK who may support other national teams, they must be treated with respect and accorded the same opportunities to enjoy the matches as England or wales supporters. There are 152,000 German employees in the UK, 105,000 from France, 91,000 Italians and 71,000 from Spain (source: Labour Force Survey). There are also 42,000 employees form Slovakia and 25,000 from Russia, both of which countries are in the same group as England and Wales.

Workers have statutory rights to paid annual leave and employees with at least six months service have a right to request flexible working and to have the request considered fairly. Of course these minimum standards were not designed with football fans’ needs in mind, but in any case far-sighted employers will want to do more than the bare minimum that the law demands.

Employers will also want to treat fairly those who are not interested in football. What is planned must not leave the soccer-sceptics with the lion’s share of the work, and care must be taken to ensure that watching or listening to Euro 2016 does not disrupt quite areas.

If employers deal with the Euro 2016 enthusiasm well, then it will be effort well spent – and it’s not too late to start kicking ideas around.