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The rugby world cup 2019 - Making it work for you

The Rugby World Cup 2019 is about to kick off in Japan on Friday 20th September.

Due to the time difference, televised matches in the UK will vary between the hours of 6am and 11am.

Whilst some employers will embrace the competition, using it as a way to motivate and engage with their staff, others will have major concerns over how it’s potentially going to disrupt the business.

Employers need to think about how they can minimise the disruption at work while helping staff to enjoy the tournament.

Issues such as increased sickness absence and unauthorised internet usage during working hours may become a problem.  In addition, managers should be prepared to cope with an increase in requests for annual leave during the next six weeks or so, ensuring that particular groups aren’t in any way disadvantaged – remember, it’s not just the men who enjoy rugby and it’s not everyone’s favourite pastime.

The following tactics might help employers avoid the headache that comes with a major sporting event.

  1. Consider allowing employees to watch the matches at work during working hours

Depending on the nature of the business, it might be possible to allow employees to watch the game at work, meaning that working time can be managed more easily – and subsequently having less of an impact on productivity in the long run!

  1. Flexible working

Taking a more flexible approach to working hours may not always be a possibility, but allowing a later start time or a shift swap, for example, may avoid someone calling in sick or presenting you with a questionable excuse for being late. If you require time taken off to be made up, then this should be agreed beforehand.

  1. Put measures in place to deter fans ‘pulling a sickie’

Prior to a major event such as the Rugby World Cup, be sure to communicate that absence which coincides with rugby games will be closely monitored and any unauthorised absence will be dealt with under your disciplinary procedures.

  1. Have clarity on internet usage

Employees spending too much time ‘surfing the net’ can have a massive effect on productivity, not to mention the host of IT problems it causes when numerous employees are streaming live matches at the same time. If you already have a social media usage policy, now would be a good time to reinforce it. If you don’t you should have a clear communication on what is considered as acceptable usage.

  1. Booking Annual Leave

It may not be possible to accommodate all requests for annual leave which may result in some very disappointed fans. You should have clear policy guidance on how to book annual leave, however you may want to be a little more flexible during the World Cup. Make it clear that this is only a temporary arrangement only. If you have too many employees wanting to book the same day off you may need a ‘first come first served’ approach. All leave requests should be treated fairly and consistently, regardless of whether or not someone is a rugby fan.

  1. Drinking or under the influence at work

As most games are between the hours of 6am and 11am in the morning, drinking or being under the influence at work may not be as much of a problem as if it were an evening game. However, employees should be aware that drinking at work or coming into work under the influence of alcohol is not acceptable, and may result in disciplinary proceedings.

  1. Workplace Banter

Banter between supporters of different teams can boost workplace morale – but be mindful that whilst rugby has a better reputation than football for rivalry between the fans, there is always the danger that seemingly harmless banter can get out of hand. Employees should be reminded of the standards of conduct expected of them, and that any bullying or harassment, particularly on the grounds of race, will not be tolerated.

Everyone has a right to support the team of their choice, whether that be England, Japan, or Namibia and no special treatment should be given to anyone supporting a particular team.

Whilst the World Cup can bring a number of headaches for employers, with careful planning and consideration, it can also have a huge boost on employee morale. Once you have decided what approach to take, whether that is to relax the rules to allow employees to enjoy the tournament, or you take a more rigorous approach to maintaining business as usual, you need to let employees know what is expected of them.

For further information and guidance on staff leave arrangements see “Family and Other Leave” in the HR Legal Overviews on the site.