Sporting events: an employer’s guide
Each year, the sporting calendar will include events that
attract the interest of the nation’s workforce such as the
World Cup football tournament or the Olympic Games.
Employers need to think carefully about how their
employees can follow such events while ensuring the
day-to-day running of their business is not adversely
Issues that may arise include: a large proportion of staff
requesting annual leave at the same time; a higher level of
employee absence (eg an employee being too hung-over to
attend work); and criminal conduct such as employees
being involved in football hooliganism.
This XpertHR model policy can be used to deal with
absence and other issues arising at the time of sporting or
other special events.
The policy covers:
time off work
ﬂexibility in working time
facilities for watching the event at work
For more information drinking or being under the inﬂuence of alcohol at work
criminal conduct outside work
or to request a
Call 020 8652 4653 (quote “Sporting Events”)
Law relating to the policy
Go to XpertHR’s book a demo form
Links to further resources from XpertHR
The aim of this policy is to set out rules and guidance for all staff on what is expected
and what concessions may be granted when a sporting or other special event is
taking place, for example the Olympic Games, the football or rugby World Cup, or a
wedding or funeral of national signiﬁcance.
The Company recognises that employees may wish to take time off at or around
the time of major events (such as the football World Cup) and that this may be very
important to some individuals. Any concessions granted to employees and/or
ﬂexibility in working hours implemented for the duration of a sporting or other
special event will be temporary measures, and are a privilege, rather than a right,
This policy is non-contractual and management reserves the right to amend or
withdraw it at any time.
Time off work
Employees who wish to take time off work around the time of a sporting or other
special event should book annual leave in the normal way, as set out in the
Company’s holiday policy. Employees should apply for such annual leave well in
advance of the event. However, in the case of sporting or other special events, the
Company may, at its discretion, also consider late requests for time off work,
including half days.
The Company will, whenever possible, seek to grant the time off that employees
request and will grant holiday leave on a ﬁrst-come, ﬁrst-served basis. However,
employees should note that the Company must maintain a minimum level of stafﬁng
at all times for both operational and safety reasons. It follows that if the organisation
(or a particular department or section) receives a large number of requests for
annual leave at the same time, some of them may have to be refused. In these
circumstances, managers will endeavour to be as fair as possible to all staff.
Flexibility in working time
During special events, the Company will, if it is possible to do so without creating
operational difﬁculties, permit ﬂexibility in start and ﬁnish times for employees who
wish it for the duration of a designated special event. For events that begin around
midday, employees may request to take a longer lunch-break with working time
being made up as appropriate. Similarly, if an event is scheduled to begin in the late
afternoon/early evening, management may permit employees who request it to
leave work up to an hour earlier than their normal ﬁnishing time to enable them to
watch the event at home or elsewhere.
This will be on the basis that an employee who seeks such ﬂexibility must:
obtain his/her line manager’s permission in advance for any and all variations to
his/her working hours; and
agree to make up any lost time within [one/two weeks] at a time designated or
approved by his/her line manager.
Employees may also request a shift swap. They can, with their manager’s
permission, swap one or more shifts with a colleague, subject always to health and
Although ﬂexibility in working time will be granted whenever possible, employees
must understand that there may be business-based reasons why it cannot be
granted. If that is the case, employees will be notiﬁed of this and required to
continue to work normally.
Employees should note that any variations to working time, however minor,
require the prior approval of the employee’s line manager.
Levels of attendance at work will be monitored, and any employee who is absent
from work without permission on the day of a major sporting or other important
event, and who does not subsequently provide medical evidence or some other
acceptable explanation for his/her absence, will be subject to formal disciplinary
action. Unauthorised or unjustiﬁed absences or lateness will not be tolerated and
disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who takes time off work
without permission, without providing proper notiﬁcation or without good reason.
Disciplinary action may also be taken against any employee who, following an
authorised day’s holiday on the date of a special event, fails to turn up for work at
the proper time the following day.
Facilities for watching the event at work
The Company may, at its discretion, provide access to a television in a designated
communal area in the event that a major sporting match or other important event is
being televised during working hours. Employees must nevertheless always obtain
permission from their line manager before leaving their work station to watch the
event at work. Time off to watch the event will be granted only where it does not
cause any disruption to the employee’s work, or inconvenience to customers or
other employees. Where employees are permitted to watch the event on television,
they may, at the Company’s discretion, be required to make up the lost work time.
Similarly, the Company may, at its discretion, vary its policy on use of the internet
during a major event to allow employees to watch the event on their workplace
computers. Again, this is not a right and employees must obtain express permission
from their line manager before accessing or watching any special event on the
internet at work.
Drinking or being under the inﬂuence of alcohol at work
Where the Company has provided access for employees to a television in a
communal area at the time of a major sporting tournament or other special event,
employees will not under any circumstances be permitted to bring any alcoholic
beverages with them to drink while watching the event.
In line with the Company’s disciplinary rules, if (during the time of a special
event) an employee should turn up to work under the inﬂuence of alcohol, or be
caught drinking alcohol during working hours [including during a lunch break], this
will be regarded as gross misconduct potentially leading to summary dismissal from
Criminal conduct outside work
Where an employee commits a criminal offence in the course of his/her time off
work to attend a sporting or other special event, for example being drunk and
disorderly at a public event or being involved in football hooliganism, the Company
reserves the right to take disciplinary action (up to and including summary
dismissal) against the employee, even though the conduct will have occurred
outside of work and in the employee’s own time. In these circumstances, the
Company will listen to the employee’s explanations regarding the offence and follow
fair procedures before taking a decision as to what (if any) action to take.
Law relating to the policy
Leading statutory authority
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Race Relations Act 1976
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1660)
Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1031)
Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833)
The biggest concern for employers when a major event is taking place is likely to arise
where the scheduling of the event overlaps with employees’ working hours, for example
an important football match taking place and being televised during working hours.
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees have the right to take up to
5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave (which can include public holidays). Employees may
also be entitled to additional holiday under their contracts of employment, which
may also set out the procedures for booking and taking holiday.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that in the absence of any provision
in the contract a worker wishing to take holiday should give notice to the employer
that is equal to twice the number of days’ leave that he or she wishes to take. The
Regulations also allow the employer to veto the holiday dates requested provided
that it gives notice equal to the number of days requested that the worker should not
be absent on those particular days. This provision provides employers with ﬂexibility
where, for example, a number of employees apply to take the same days off and
where, for operational reasons, this cannot be accommodated.
Where an employee takes time off work without authority, the employer will be
entitled, following an investigation, to regard the matter as misconduct potentially
leading to disciplinary action against the employee.
Where an employee is granted time off work and, in the course of that time off,
commits a criminal offence, for example by being drunk and disorderly, committing
assault or being involved in hooliganism at a public football match, the employer will
need to give careful consideration as to whether or not disciplinary action (and
possibly dismissal) would be appropriate. It would be immaterial whether the offence
was committed in Britain or overseas. Whether or not dismissal is a reasonable
response will depend on the particular facts. Before deciding what action to take, the
responsible manager should take into account the employee’s job duties and level of
seniority and assess whether or not the particular conduct is likely to have an impact
on the employee’s ability to do his or her job. It is reasonable to assume that higher
standards can be expected of senior employees and those who deal directly with the
If there is a report in the press about the charge and the organisation is
mentioned in the report, thus causing bad publicity, there may be stronger grounds
for dismissing the employee. For the purposes of defending a claim in an
employment tribunal, the dismissal would be for “some other substantial reason”
since the employee’s conduct will have brought the organisation’s name into
disrepute, even though he or she may not have breached any company rules.
When considering requests for ﬂexibility and/or time off, employers should also bear
in mind the need for equality of treatment for men and women, employees of different
nationalities and religions, and employees in different age groups. Managers should not
make assumptions about the sexes, for example by assuming that only men will want to
watch football matches. Similarly, care should be taken not to favour men (or younger
employees) in terms of any privileges granted to staff during a sporting event.
Additionally, where the employer has decided to screen popular football or other
sporting matches within the workplace, it should not automatically assume that only
matches involving, for example, England will be of interest to staff. Staff of different
nationalities (including Scottish, Welsh and Irish employees) should be given equal