Belfast Telegraph

As Euro 2016 fever spreads, Northern Ireland firms on ball to let workers watch action

By Margaret Canning

Football fever is spreading across Northern Ireland - and even workplaces are getting in on the action.

The 2,500-strong workforce of Almac in Craigavon have their bosses' blessing to watch Northern Ireland and the Republic's first-round matches in the pharmaceutical firm's canteen.

Asda staff are also being encouraged to wear football shirts of any nation - even those not taking part in the European Championship - during the tournament.

Leona Rankin, an employment solicitor at law firm Carson McDowell, said: "Employers are not under any obligation to allow staff flexibility around the Euros to watch matches. However, for some employers, allowing a degree of flexibility may serve to enhance staff morale."

Employers' organisation the CBI said it was making sure members get their footie fix when Michael O'Neill's men face Ukraine tomorrow evening.

A CBI spokeswoman said a members' event due to start at 6pm had instead been pushed back an hour.

"We are putting up a large screen and providing refreshments for members who want to watch the game before our event," she added. "It's still business as usual but we are being a little flexible because of the circumstances."

CBI regional director Nigel Smyth added: "We are sure employers will take a common-sense approach to Euro 2016 and be flexible about staff watching big matches at work.

"However, there will always be some jobs where this simply isn't possible."

Almac said it had made arrangements for staff to watch matches, though added that "terms and conditions apply".

"Those wishing to watch will not be paid for the duration of the match and management approval must be given 48 hours prior to kick off," it added.

"This is to ensure adequate operational cover, and the decision has been welcomed by fans - in particular those working evening and weekend shifts."

Sue Bill, global vice-president of human resources at Almac, told this paper: "It is essential that we ensure our employees are happy in their workplace, and responding to their requests to enable them to stay on site to support their nation's football team means a win-win."

Asda, which employs 4,500 people in Northern Ireland, said it was encouraging staff to swap uniform shirts for football strips, including Northern Ireland and the Republic, during the championships.

Simon Campbell, managing director of fit-out firm Portview Fit-Out, which has 77 employees, added: "We are happy for those who watch a particular match to work around it by making the time up.

"We also have a TV in work that they can avail of, so there should be no thwarted fans."

Leona Rankin, of Carson McDowell, said employers who were permitting football shirts must always take heed of the Fair Employment Code of Practice.

She added: "Employers must promote a good and harmonious working environment and atmosphere in which no worker feels under threat or intimated because of his or her religious belief or political opinion.

"The code specifically makes reference to the wearing of emblems that have the potential to cause disharmony."

Belfast Telegraph