With the Rugby World Cup starting on 18th September 2015 and lasting until late October, do employers need to keep an eye out for staff absences caused by sporting events?
Many employees will be avid rugby fans (whether they support one of the home nations or not) and will do what they can to catch their games, but what you can do to encourage employees to enjoy the celebrations without disrupting your business?
“As an ex-player and avid rugby supporter I think the Rugby World Cup is great for business, particularly as it is based in the UK; can you imagine the feel good factor in the UK if England perform well and possibly win the tournament? I’m sure that’s something that can benefit all businesses. Those with international links can build conversations with their overseas partners particularly if they are participating countries. But business owners need to be careful to ensure that they make the most out of this opportunity as legal compliance can be a minefield,” stated Ian Cass, managing director of the Forum of Private Business.
England have been placed into Pool A fixtures with three games at Twickenham at 8.00pm and their final group game at Manchester City Stadium, again at 8.00pm, but it may also be useful for employers to bear in mind the dates and times of other nations’ games in order to help you plan in advance and to look out for an increase in absences if you also have employees from various countries.
As an employer you have a number of options open to you:
Use annual leave
Invite staff to book annual leave if they wish to watch sporting fixtures that occur during work time. Encourage staff to book holidays with sufficient notice if they are going to need time off. This will help you to plan ahead for any staff shortages. You could also offer unpaid leave if you have enough staff to cover absences.
Allow flexible working
Let employees leave early to watch sporting fixtures, but ask them to either start earlier, finish later or a combination of both on the same or another day during that week to make up the missing time. Other flexible approaches include allowing staff to swap shifts, if feasible.
You could take the view that any unauthorised absence is just that and, if staff choose to be absent on that day without taking a holiday, they leave themselves open to disciplinary action.
Alternatively, you could look at the possibility of watching the sporting events at work, allowing for employees to catch the games but for production to continue:
Screening sports at work
Install a TV screen or projector screen so that employees can watch a game and use the occasion as a team-building event, so no one has to take days off. Or, if you don’t have a TV, let them listen to it on the radio. However, you should be aware with either of these options that you will need either a TV licence or a licence from the Performing Rights Society for radio use. And remember, not everyone will enjoy watching sports, so be mindful of others when making arrangements.
Use it as a perk
While you have no obligation to cater for your employees’ sporting interests, you could aid motivation by using an hour or two of time off to watch a sporting event as an incentive, perhaps based upon individual or group performance.
Review your internet policy
Employees may try to watch sporting events online or follow instant updates on news and social media sites, so you should remind them of your internet use and monitoring policies. It is up to you to decide whether you’re happy for your employees to keep track of events online; this might cause less disruption than people taking time off, but it is worth bearing in mind that if staff are streaming live sporting fixtures on a company-owned computer, you should have a TV licence to do so.
Remember that not all employees will be supporting the England team. So, to avoid any discrimination, it will be important that, whatever you decide to do, you offer the same concessions to all employees who wish to watch fixtures involving their chosen country.
“If you need help on this or any other HR issue, please call us now on 0845 130 1722 and we would be happy to help,” concludes Mr Cass .