We’ve just put the rackets away and it’s already time to take out the football cleats. The EURO 2016 started on Friday 10 June and with it arises the perpetual question of whether it is possible to watch matches at work.
Both the astute and the disgruntled may be surprised to see this type of article flourishing around the time of the EURO, since the rest of the time they are not used to seeing titles like “Can I read magazines at work?” or “Can I watch my favorite TV show during my working hours?”, because the answer is so evident.
This is the sign that there’s just something special about major football events!
Strictly speaking, employees must dedicate themselves to their professional activity during working hours and, therefore, may not use their computers or camp out in the break room during them to watch matches. This rule also applies to itinerant employees who must carry out their duties (meetings with clients, deliveries…).
Certainly, it’s conceivable that an employee who is free to manage his own working schedule could adapt his agenda to both carry out his responsibilities and watch a game. However, this type of employee is more the exception than the rule.
In practice, during this kind of sporting or other festive events, employers adopt a more lenient approach. It is rare that an employee is punished, because he used his work computer a couple of times to watch the game online.
On this question of going online, a company may have internal rules and/or an IT policy that set out the terms and conditions for the use of the Internet and company IT tools which must be referred to.
Just as with many other issues, it is advisable to adopt a measured, common sense approach.
While it would be difficult to sanction an employee who follows a match “from afar” while getting his work done, it would be different if he refused, during the entire game, to carry out the job he is paid for (refusal to take client telephone calls, cancellation of meetings, etc.).
Even during the EURO, it’s important to stay vigilant and not allow enthusiasm to result in forgetting health and safety principles.
The situation can be different depending on the culture of the company. In a good number of companies, it is the employer that starts discussions about the EURO 2016 and gives the employees the opportunity to indulge their passion (television installed in the company, adapted working hours, etc.).
Lastly, even during the EURO 2016, the question of loyalty remains.
While it would be difficult to justify a sanction against an employee who, without violating any important rules including safety rules, went online a couple of times to check the results of a game, the situation could be different with regard to an employee who “betrayed” the trust of the employer by lying about his schedule or his destination in order to attend a match.
In an old case from 1983, the French Supreme Court found that a dismissal for gross misconduct had been justified where the employee had claimed that he needed to leave work because his wife was having a baby, when in fact he had left to watch a football game.
To sum up, the amount of time spent at work to follow the EURO must remain reasonable. Only a clear-cut abuse would be sufficient to justify a dismissal, keeping in mind that when dealing with disciplinary matters, the punishment must fit the misconduct. Other criteria may also have to be taken into account such as the damage caused to the company (commercial, financial) or the violation of a safety rule.
The moral of the story: it is possible to be an employee/fan, while remaining professional and responsible in order not to ruin the party!
First published on Ius Laboris Global HR.
Read more about sporting events and German employment law in our articles EURO 2016 and employment law in Germany and UK employment law considerations during EURO 2016 as well as Italian employment law considerations during EURO 2016.