Can / should employers allow staff a little flexibility around the Euros?

15 June 2016

Author: Leona Rankin
Practice Area: Employment Law


Leona Rankin, a solicitor with the employment team at Carson McDowell discusses the question of flexibility around the Euros:

“The UEFA European Championship is now well under way with matches scheduled up until 10 July 2016.  For those who are keen not to miss a match, they may wish to request annual leave or change shifts for example.

“Employers are not under any obligation to allow staff flexibility around the Euros to watch matches. However, for some employers, allowing a degree of flexibility may serve to enhance staff morale.  

“ACAS - England and Wales’ equivalent to our Labour Relations Agency (LRA) - recently published guidance to help employers plan ahead for Euro 2016. It looks at requests for annual leave, sickness absence, internet use during work hours and how to deal with employees who are under the influence of alcohol at work.

“ACAS advises that flexibility from both employers and employees is key to a productive business and engaged workforce. Whilst the LRA has not issued similar guidance for Northern Irish employers, ACAS’ recommendations could prove to be of use to local businesses.  

“In addition to the issues above, we would advise employers be mindful of potential rivalry as a result of the Euros and ensure that employees are aware of any bullying and harassment policy, in particular, the potential for harassment claims arising out of office “banter”.  

“Employers can operate a dress code policy within the workplace and can require employees to adhere to this. During the Euros, some employers may decide to relax the rules and allow employees to wear football shirts.  Should an employer decide to relax its policy it must be mindful of the Fair Employment Code of Practice and associated guidance issued by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. 

“Under the Code employers must “promote a good and harmonious working environment and atmosphere in which no worker feels under threat or intimated because of his or her religious belief or political opinion”.  The Code specifically makes reference to the wearing of emblems that have the potential to cause disharmony.”

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