Are you a bad boss if you don’t let your staff watch the football?

Today’s blog has been inspired by my brief interview yesterday afternoon on BBC Three Counties Radio. I thought I was going to get bumped as the devastating news that MP Jo Cox had died after being stabbed and shot was coming through, but the Producer decided she wanted to finish on a more positive note and were going to briefly “fit me in.”

Photo by Yui Mok/PA Wire URN:22984252

Jo Cox, MP

So, before I start, I want to send my condolences to the family, friends and constituents of

Jo Cox, MP. My thoughts are with you all at this unbelievably difficult time.

To Football or not to Football? – That is THE question!

The reason for me being on the radio was altogether different – “Are you a bad boss if you don’t let your staff watch the football?”

Now, I could have fun with this one!

During the interview we touched on:

  • Whether all workplaces are conducive to watching a game of football
  • Should Euro 2016 be treated any differently to other events i.e. The World Cup, The Olympics, The Chelsea Flower Show etc. After all, not everyone likes football.
  • What happens if you have a multi-cultural workforce supporting different teams and does this impact on which games you ‘show’?
  • How bosses should manage an employee who ‘bunks off’ work to watch the football
  • What happens if an employee who travels to France is arrested in violent clashes


All workplaces are not the same

There are many working environments where stopping work and watching the football is just not possible or appropriate. Imagine the scene – a large general hospital “Hold on madam, I can’t operate on you just yet as we are watching the England vs Wales match. I’ll be with you in 2 hours”. Or a large department store in a shopping centre “Ladies and Gentlemen, due to the England vs Wales match, the store is closing in 5 minutes to allow our staff to watch the game. Please return in 2 hours, when we will be delighted to assist you with your purchases”. In some workplaces, it is never going to happen. That doesn’t make the boss a bad boss, it just means they have a business to run or patients to tend to.

Cats at workSo what about the office environments or schools where the decision is taken to watch the England game. “Why the England game?,” I hear you cry. Well that is the first issue. In a multi-cultural environment, there may be employees from across Europe who want to watch games for their home teams.

When deciding how to handle the Euro 2016 fixtures, a business needs to adopt a policy which is fair and can be applied to all workers, from all countries and those who do not want to watch the football at all – yes there are people who do not want to know and do not care!

There are multiple options and no right and wrong solutions, but the normal laws around discrimination still apply. Do not discriminate against employees based on their age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity or beliefs.

Flexible working for all employees may be a good solution – staff work a set number of hours a day and as long as they make up the hours, they can watch the football. So some may start early and leave early, others may work through lunch and stay late. Employers may choose to require the hours to be worked on the specific day or may allow flexi-working across the week.

In some businesses, where there is a requirement to keep the business operational, employers may allow employees to listen to the game rather than to watch it or insist on shifts among the team. Employees who have no interest at all may agree to cover the department while the others are watching the football – but employers need to find an appropriate way to thank and recognise those employees left holding the fort.

Other considerations for the Euro 2016 season – do you screen the game in the office and 2016_euro_cup_flags_image_lglet everyone watch together or do you send people to the local pub or even home to watch the match? This may depend on your location and on the nature of your workforce. If people are likely to get very emotional and fired up to the extent that they could be abusive or ‘out of control’, it is better not to have them on the premises. This might be the case if you have employees supporting both the teams playing.

Do you supply drinks and nibbles to keep the staff at work, create more of a team atmosphere in the office and turn it into an event? This is a nice thing to do but here are a few considerations for you:

  1. If you are serving alcohol, will employees be fit to work afterwards and / or fit to drive home. Although they are all adults, you are the employer and have a duty of care and if you have supplied the alcohol and allowed them to drive home (especially if in a company car) or operate machinery, the risk sits with you.
  2. We are in the middle of Ramadan (if you didn’t read my blog last week on the topic, you can do so here). If you have Muslim employees, you must consider them when planning your football events. The best advice I can give you is to speak to them and involve them in the planning if you are intending on serving food and drink of any sort.
  3. Which games do you supply the drinks and nibbles for? All of them, just the England games? Perhaps only the Welsh games?

Whichever approach you take, talk to your staff, involve them in the planning and don’t spend a fortune on something they don’t actually appreciate.

Bend it like Beckham

Glasses of alcoholWhat happens when employees bend the rules?
If a half day off to watch the football becomes an entire day in the pub?
If an employee wakes a little worse for wear the morning after the night before and decides to take a duvet day, but is perhaps very indiscreet about doing so, sharing across social media?
Or if an employee comes back to work having consumed huge amounts of alcohol and tells your top client what he thinks of him?

The short answer is, all your normal policies and procedures must apply. Follow your normal processes for managing unauthorised absences. Ensure you have all the facts and then present them to your employee. Ensure you provide them with adequate notice of the meeting and give them the right to be accompanied. If you are going to discipline someone, follow your normal procedures and in the absence of normal procedures, get advice.

Unable to attend work due to incarceration

In the unlikely event one of your employees finds themselves on the wrong side of the law and is arrested or detained while watching a match in France, you need to take advice. You can’t automatically fire them, but depending on the circumstances, you may be able to take disciplinary action which may be termination of contract. This however is an extreme scenario and one which hopefully no employer finds themselves in. If you do, get advice before you do anything. Do not send them a text telling them they are an idiot and you are firing them – you will end up in an employment tribunal!


Whatever you chose to do this football season, be consistent and communicate it in advance.

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