Boris Johnson has not ruled out the prospect of an additional bank holiday if England win the Euro 2020 football final this Sunday (11 July).
While Downing Street sources have indicated that this Monday would be too short notice for an “emergency” day off, it has been reported that other options are being considered.
The prime minister said it would be “tempting fate” to declare a bank holiday this Monday, adding “let’s see what happens”. An official spokesperson added that the government would “set out plans in due course” rather than pre-empt the outcome of the final.
The English football team bagged a 2-1 victory in extra time over Denmark this week, securing a place in the final against Italy.
More than 100,000 people have already signed a petition calling for an extra bank holiday if England win the tournament. This means the government must consider it for debate in the House of Commons.
The petition reads: “Sunday 8pm is a difficult time for families to plan to be together for the event – knowing we have an additional day off the next day would significantly help this.
“Furthermore, a historic win should be celebrated. It would be expected for the winning team to parade the trophy, and a bank holiday would be a perfect time to do this.
“Also, English people would naturally want to continue to enjoy the win, giving the retail and leisure industry a much-needed opportunity to make up lost revenues.”
Johnson has urged employers to be flexible where possible about allowing staff to change their hours on Monday or book the time off at short notice, but many fear a surge in annual leave bookings or staff simply calling in sick on Monday morning.
Statistics shared with Personnel Today by HR and absence management system providers indicate that leave bookings have soared in the past few days.
BrightHR reported a 322% increase in annual leave requests for Monday 12 July between 10pm on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Overall, annual leave requests are up 109.6% compared with the previous Monday (5 July).
Edays said last minute absence bookings had gone up by almost 30% yesterday compared with a regular Thursday. After England’s historic win against Germany on 29 June, unplanned absence rose by almost a third, it found.
During June, Edays found that there was a 40% spike in unplanned absence in the construction sector compared to the previous four months, in particular Monday 14 June, the day after England’s win against Croatia in the group stages.
HR technology company Breathe attributed 28% of all leave requests for Monday to England’s place in the final, with more than 2,000 requests made after the match on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, online discount site VoucherCodes has predicted that almost a quarter of a million (246,000) employees will “bunk off” on Monday after the final.
Steve Arnold, co-founder of Edays, said: “Regardless of whether a last-minute bank holiday Monday is announced or not, businesses should expect to see significant spikes in absence amongst their workforces following the historic final on Sunday.
“With a notable proportion of our population still waiting to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 we may also see a rise in cases of employees having to isolate themselves after Euro 2020 celebrations. Our data highlights what could be a worrying problem for business if they are unprepared.”
Claire Brook, employment partner at law firm Aaron & Partners, agreed that an extra bank holiday would be popular but that care should be taken.
“Regardless of whether a last-minute bank holiday Monday is announced or not, businesses should expect to see significant spikes in absence amongst their workforces following the historic final on Sunday.” – Steve Arnold, Edays
She said: “Boris Johnson’s comment that this is not the time to become ‘demob happy’ indicates that it is unlikely that the government will wish to be seen to be encouraging a mass celebration on a particular day, nor disrupt employers’ business arrangements at a time when companies are planning a “safe return to the workplace”.
“If the government did decide to do this, any additional bank holiday would not necessarily change an employee’s overall annual entitlement to leave. It is not uncommon for a contract to stipulate a certain number of days plus ‘eight bank holidays’. In that instance, an additional day of leave would not be automatically permitted, but instead would be at the discretion of the employer.”
However, she added that employment contracts that set out a number of days ‘plus bank holidays’ could potentially result in contractual claims for an additional bank holiday. This would also be the case for the extra bank holiday in 2022 for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
“It’s also important to remember that there are many employers that don’t observe Bank Holidays. For example, businesses in the retail, care and hospitality sectors do not typically include these for their employees,” she said.
“If the government does not announce an additional bank holiday, employers can offer to adapt their holiday policy in respect of holiday bookings and could, if they wish, offer additional holiday – whether as a one off or as an increase to annual allowance.
“Any employer wishing to do this should update their policy and make sure any rules around booking holiday are clearly communicated. Part-time workers’ entitlement should also be carefully considered to avoid a backlash and potential grievances arising from what should be a positive initiative.”
If employees fail to attend work on Monday without prior permission, this will amount to unauthorised absence, which could be deemed gross misconduct with the associated disciplinary consequences, she added.
“Given that the final is to be aired late on Sunday evening, employers who wish to support employees to have ‘flexible’ start times or agree holidays for Monday next week would be advised to agree to such arrangements in advance.
“Employers may also wish to remind employees of the rules around being fit to work and ensuring that no one attends work under the influence. This is particularly important to drivers and those operating equipment.”
Ruth Kudzyi, CEO of Optimum Coaching Academy, reminded employers that they should not assume Sunday’s final is an important occasion for everyone and that any response should be inclusive.
“I think the idea of a bank holiday on Monday is great… but it is based on the assumption that everyone in the workforce supports England and likes football which can be divisive in itself especially for employers that have a lot of people from different backgrounds.
“It’s a great gesture that can increase engagement for some groups, however on a practical level it may well be hard to do at such short notice and it may alienate some groups too.
“A better solution could be to have a bank holiday later on in the month so people can plan effectively and to offer some flexibility on Monday if you can as a business.”
Alan Price, CEO of Bright HR added: “The success of the England team at the Euros has provided a much-needed morale boost; exactly what the country has needed after being locked down for so long.
It’s a great gesture that can increase engagement, however on a practical level it may well be hard to do at such short notice and it may alienate some groups too.” – Ruth Kudzyi, Optimum Coaching Academy
“I would encourage all companies to embrace the positivity, look ahead and encourage people to book annual leave in advance rather than calling in sick after the games. Being flexible when handling holiday requests and embracing the positive mood of the country will mean businesses are less likely to struggle with a sickness hangover the day after the match.
“There will, of course, be genuine sickness absences the day after the big match so employers should never assume that someone is taking a sickie. If they have genuine cause to think the sickness absence is not genuine, they can investigate and potentially even take disciplinary action.
“Employees need to ask themselves, is it worth losing your job over a football match? If the answer is no, then put in a request for annual leave ahead of time or celebrate responsibly and go to work as expected. It’s also important to remember your company’s drug and alcohol policy and be sure to take public transport to work rather than driving, if you have consumed too much the night before.”
Professor Chris Imafidon, a motivational speaker and remote work strategist, argues that “whatever we celebrate, we replicate”.
“So if we want more successes in sports or life, then we must over-celebrate until we duplicate it… we must mark this unique and extraordinary achievements of these young people! The event in Wembley is more than a football match, it’s an Inspirational manifestation of the spirit of unity, perseverance, persistence and patience in the midst of a pandemic.
“If we win, the mental health of the workers will receive a boost due to new joy and sense of nationhood. This additional day of celebrations and reflection can focus on the theme that it is possible.”