The Football World Cup - a practical checklist and key questions for employers in France

​A practical checklist to help employers prepare for issues in advance and the responses to a number of questions that employers have asked in relation to other similar situations.

Introduction

The Football World Cup starts soon. For some, the event will be one which raises high emotions, and it can be associated with particular patterns of behaviour. For example, problems may arise in relation to drinking of alcohol, before, during and after watching matches.

In practice, the key for employers will be to:

  • make it clear in advance what is and what is not acceptable, and
  • be consistent.

Any special arrangements made for the World Cup will have to be workable so that they do not jeopardise the employer’s business. This may mean that some employers decide that they do not want to make any concessions although others may well do so in the spirit of the tournament.

Preparation

Employers would be well advised to consider in advance what their approach will be to a number of situations and clearly communicate this to employees. For example:

  • dress codes - will employees be allowed to wear clothing that shows their support of a particular national team or be allowed to dress down?
  • leave - will it be necessary to put a cap on the number of employees who take leave during the World Cup? Is this already provided for by existing arrangements for authorising annual leave? If there is already a cap in place, is there any merit in relaxing this?
  • flexible working - what approach will be taken to employee requests to work flexibly during the World Cup (eg to arrive early or leave late, to take longer lunch breaks or to work from home)? What approach will be taken to those who ask for the same flexibility but for reasons unrelated to the World Cup?
  • workplace behaviour - is it necessary to remind employees of the need to maintain a good standard of behaviour in the workplace - or to give guidance on when national banter might become unacceptable racial harassment?
  • alcohol - is it necessary to remind employees of existing rules on alcohol in the workplace or to create specific rules for the period of the tournament?
  • communal facilities - is there any merit in providing communal facilities to watch football matches (eg a television in the canteen)? When would these be made available - for all matches/certain key matches (whilst noting the “make up” of the workforce before limiting access to certain national teams)? What limits if any would be put on individuals using the facilities (eg how many matches they can watch in a certain period)?
  • betting and sweepstakes - is it necessary to issue rules (or reiterate existing rules) on betting and/or running sweepstakes in the office?
  • personal facilities - what approach will be taken to employees bringing radios, portable televisions etc into the workplace? Should employees be expressly prohibited from downloading software onto their work computer to enable them to watch certain matches. If current policies already prohibit this, a reminder may be appropriate.
  • disciplinary issues - be clear about what conduct is unacceptable and might give rise to disciplinary action such as unauthorised absence, unacceptable banter, intoxication, bringing alcohol into the workplace etc.

Absence

Can an employer take disciplinary action against an employee who has a regular pattern of sickness absence during the World Cup?

An employer should not automatically assume that a regular pattern of sickness absence is connected with the World Cup. If the sickness absence is justified by a medical certificate, there is a presumption that the employee is actually sick, unless the employer can demonstrate that the sickness is not genuine (for example after having organised a formal separate medical opinion). If, however, the sickness absence is not justified by a medical certificate, the employee's absence would not be justified and the employer could then take disciplinary action against the employee in accordance with its normal disciplinary procedure/internal regulations (“règlement intérieur”).

Does an employer have to pay an employee who calls in sick during the World Cup?

This will depend upon the reason for the absence. If the sickness absence is justified by a medical certificate, the employee should receive normal entitlements applicable to sickness absence according to the law and/or collective bargaining agreements applicable within the company. If, however, a separate formal medical examination (as above) shows that the employee’s absence is not a result of a genuine sickness, the employee will not be entitled to payment. If the sickness absence is not justified by a medical certificate, the employee will not be entitled to payment.

Performance

If an employee comes to work with a hangover and cannot work effectively, can they be sent home?

Employees should come to work in a condition that allows them to carry out their duties effectively. If an employee cannot carry out their work as a result of a hangover (and it is advisable to ask the occupational health doctor or any other relevant authority to testify that the employee is suffering from a hangover), the employer could send them home and they could potentially be subject to the disciplinary process. If the employer has internal regulations on the issue, these should be checked.

Disciplinary issues

Can an employer discipline an employee who comes to work intoxicated following a World Cup game?

Employers are under a specific obligation to maintain employees’ physical and mental health as well as safety at work. If the fact that an employee is intoxicated has been certified by the occupational health doctor or other relevant authority and poses any risk to the employee themselves or other employees, the employer would be under obligation to take all steps and measures to prevent or put an end to this risk. This would include taking disciplinary action against the intoxicated employee.

Moreover, if the fact that the employee is intoxicated has any adverse consequences on the running of the company (such as relationships with clients or causes a danger), it may justify taking disciplinary action against the employee or dismissing the employee.

Finally, provisions of the internal regulations of the company on this subject, if any, should be checked.

Can an employer discipline or dismiss an employee who is unable to come to work because they have been imprisoned or detained for alleged hooliganism?

Potentially. Employees' private lives are, however, strictly protected. As any imprisonment or detention for alleged hooliganism would be considered to be part of the employee's private life, the validity of any disciplinary action or dismissal of the employee will depend on a number of factors which show that this private event has had an impact on the employee's employment including:

  • the length of the imprisonment or detention and whether it means that the employee cannot carry out their work
  • whether any licences held by the employee which are required for their work, may be affected, and
  • whether the company’s organisation and running is in any way affected by the imprisonment.

In practice

As noted above, the key for employers will be to be clear and consistent. It will be particularly important to ensure that whatever arrangements are made, such arrangements do not discriminate (the obvious examples being on the grounds of race, nationality or sex).

It may be worthwhile amending current internal regulations to ensure that future events of this nature are clearly covered.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.