With the Euros kicking off on 14 June, play beginning at Wimbledon on 1 July, the Open teeing off at Royal Troon on 18 July, and the Olympics and Paralympics starting on 26 July and 28 August, the United Kingdom is gearing up for a summer of sport.

Managing performance and attendance issues during major sporting events can be challenging. However with careful planning and communication it's possible to navigate them effectively.

The ball is in your court

If you haven’t already, work out what behaviour you expect from your staff when sporting events are on:

  • As the referee, will you penalise your staff at the mention of sport? Or will you show leniency by allowing events to be shown in communal areas or organising staff events?
  • How will you deal with employees who want to follow live events or results on the internet? If you permit employees to engage with events during working hours, how will you ensure they maintain productivity and don't spend their day fixated on the screen? You could consider allowing breaks during match times or flexibility in terms of start and finish times.
  • What about people who are not interested in sport? If you are allowing some form of flexibility over the summer, would this extend to all employees? If you don't you could face complaints of favouritism, leaving some staff feeling left on the sidelines.

Unless you expressly introduce some flexibility, tell employees (including homeworkers) that they should not be watching sport during normal working hours without your prior approval. Ensure that your approach is communicated effectively to all employees well in advance.

Play by the rules

    Remind employees of any applicable HR policies and codes of conduct, for example in relation to:

    • IT and social media use: Given the potential increase in the use of the internet and social media while sporting events are on, it is important to remind staff of your IT and social media policies, highlighting any terms which are particularly relevant e.g. a requirement not to post discriminatory comments online or only allowing personal internet use during rest breaks.
    • Equality, inclusion and diversity / bullying and harassment: Competition can create tension with employees supporting different countries, players or teams. Any workplace activities should be inclusive and focussed on the event itself rather than one team or country to avoid potential claims of constructive dismissal or discrimination. Ensure that staff understand your commitment to equality, inclusion and diversity and your zero-tolerance policy on bullying and harassment.
    • Conduct outside of work: Remind employees that they should behave appropriately when watching sporting events outside of work. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to take action if there is misconduct outside of work, for example if it risks damaging your organisation's reputation.
    • Conduct at work-related social events: If you are arranging any work-related social events, make sure that staff are aware of the standards expected of them and that you will deal with misconduct via your disciplinary policy.
    • Alcohol: Keep an eye on any inappropriate alcohol consumption and remind staff of their obligations e.g. any zero-tolerance policy on alcohol during working hours.
    • Attendance / absence management: see the paragraph on absences below.

    Keeping score

    Whether it's to celebrate victory or drown their sorrows, employees may decide to continue their celebrations through the night and call in sick or show up to work late. You may therefore want to remind staff that your attendance and absence management policies will continue to apply and that any unauthorised absences, lateness or abuse of your policies could be classed as misconduct resulting in disciplinary action.

    If an employee calls in sick, take this at face value. However, if you have reason to believe that the absence is not genuine, then you should investigate and, if necessary, hold a meeting with the employee to ascertain the reason for the absence.

    You might want to make a list of matches/events that will be important to staff and keep a record of attendance for that day and the following days. Keeping a written record of incidents will help spot patterns, make sure you’re not jumping to conclusions, and if necessary provide evidence to support your reasons for disciplining a staff member.

    Tee'd up for success

      You may receive more annual leave requests than normal over the summer from employees wanting to attend sporting events. Requests for annual leave should be dealt with in the usual way (although you could allow shorter notice than normal if practical). Think about how you will manage competing holiday requests for the same period. Remember that not everyone in the office will be a sports fan, so make sure that you manage requests fairly and consistently.

      If staff are wanting to watch events or are planning post-event celebrations with friends, remind them that they have the option of requesting annual leave. Highlighting the right to take holidays can be helpful because: 

      • When time off is planned it gives you as a business time to organise the delegation of tasks smoothly, rather than being left short-staffed and overstretched;
      • If a worker does not take sufficient leave in a holiday year, it could impact on wellbeing and health and safety; and
      • Workers have a right to carry over any untaken statutory holidays if you fail to give them a reasonable opportunity to take their holiday or encourage them to do so; or don't inform them that any holiday not taken by the end of the holiday year will be lost.

      Carry the torch

      Once the summer of sport has concluded, evaluate how well your policies and strategies worked in practice and gather feedback from employees. This can assist with making necessary adjustments for the future.

      If you want to be a frontrunner this summer, Brodies provides template policies through our online platform Workbox by Brodies. For more information, visit the dedicated Workbox by Brodies page.


      Danielle Taylor