A BUILDER working on the house next door to mine was given last Thursday afternoon off by his boss, to watch England play Denmark.

“He’s a great boss,” he told me, going on to say that most of his workmates would be watching the match in Benidorm. “The boss has treated them to a few days holiday to coincide with the Euros - I couldn’t go because my passport has expired.”

He’s one of the lucky ones, with a boss who is making an effort to accommodate their football-crazy workforce.

But there will be many more workers who won’t be granted time off or allowed to leave work early to watch Gareth Southgate’s men battle for the top spot.

Many of those, we are told, will be taking match days, or the days following matches, off regardless.

Human resources experts have warned companies to brace for rise in absences, sickness and lateness on these days, as well as a dip in productivity in the workplace.

BrightHR, which monitors absence among over a million employees at over 50,000 UK companies, predicts repeats of the 128 per cent rise in sickness the day after England’s Euro 2020 Sunday group game.

Chief executive Alan Price said that match days can have a huge impact on attendance and productivity, with absences, sickness and lateness sometimes doubling after big games.

It’s even more likely when combined with hot weather.

You’d think football was the only sport in the country. You never hear of bosses giving staff the afternoon off to watch the Test match or Wimbledon, or thousands going off sick to watch a rugby league clash or horse racing.

Bosses don't offer workers time off for Wimbledon. Picture: PixabayBosses don't offer workers time off for Wimbledon. Picture: Pixabay (Image: Pixabay)

But we lovers of ‘alternative’ sports are also passionate about our beautiful games: we’ve even been known to skive off to watch them ourselves.

I’ve loved watching tennis for as long as I can remember. In sixth form during Wimbledon I regularly pretended to have study leave. I’d come home at lunchtime and not go back.

I’ve worked with people who have taken the Wimbledon fortnight off as annual leave every year, who glue themselves to the sofa from start to finish.

I’ve been lucky to have worked mainly in a large newsroom, where at least one TV would be on all day. In summer we would often have tennis or cricket playing overhead as we worked.

My dad, also a journalist, worked from home. When the Test match was on, he kept the TV playing in the corner of the living room. With every huge cheer Dad would emerge from his office asking who was out.

During events like the Euros, those working from home are seen as fortunate in being able to watch matches while in the ‘office’. For some, that’s true. I work from home and while I won’t be tuning in to the Euros, I will definitely have Wimbledon on in the background when it starts next week.

Not all home workers can easily engage with sporting fixtures. Maybe they will resort to more underhand methods. Top American bank Wells Fargo recently sacked more than a dozen home working employees after finding out they were using ‘mouse movers’ to fool bosses they were working.

The products - also known as ‘mouse jigglers’ - exploded in popularity during the pandemic as staff tried to escape the watchful eyes of bosses while apparently working from home.

The contraptions allow users to leave their desks for hours at a time without being detected by their employer, by moving their computer mouse autonomously.

To address this some companies use software to track staff working remotely, monitoring their every move.

I’d like to bet that, across Europe, sales of these gadgets have risen over the past few weeks.

For football fans ringing in sick, I only hope the blot on your record is worth it.