Employers need to get ready for the upcoming Rugby World Cup which is due to be held in stadiums across Britain between September 18 and October 31. According to research, the number of absentees could total 4.4 million during the contest.

A survey of 2115 professionals conducted by CV-Library concludes that businesses risk a flood of unauthorised absences, due to as many as one in seven workers saying they may skive off to watch the tournament. Also those that do turn up, may not have their eye on the ball. 40.7% of respondents state that they plan to watch matches shown during working hours. This includes the 48.5% of managers who hope to watch the games from their desk.

If planned properly the Rugby World Cup could present an opportunity to increase employee engagement, and to improve motivation and morale. Also by planning ahead, the disruption and the risk of unauthorised leave can be minimised.

There are a number of options employers can take to reduce the level of unauthorised absence:

  1. Have a television in the office, or on site to allow staff to see the game. This would, at least keep staff at work. Although not a particularly productive way for employees to spend their time, employers could require that any lost time is made up elsewhere.
  2. Allow staff to stream live video footage or radio coverage from the internet and have this available on their screens whilst they are working. Again not a particularly productive way for employees to spend their time, but, as with watching the game on TV, employers could require that any lost time is made up elsewhere. Also, it would have to be made clear that this was a one-off for the tournament, and does not change any of the current IT usage policies.
  3. Allowing employees time off to watch a game, whether together as part of a team building exercise or on an individual basis taken from their annual leave. This can create a great amount of goodwill, and staff may even be willing to put in longer hours if it means that they will get to see their team play. With kick off times from 2.30 – 8.00 pm during the tournament, allowing some flexibility to work patterns so staff can watch the matches of their choice can also do a great deal for staff morale. If you take staff out as a group to watch the game, it should be made very clear that work rules apply, and what constitutes acceptable behaviour, particularly in relation to the consumption of alcohol.

The offer of flexible working may also encourage staff to ensure their workload is dealt with before heading off to the match. It worth remembering that providing some flexibility will actually discourage unauthorised absences, and minimise the disruption to the business.

It is important to consider the needs of those who are not interested in rugby just as much as those who are keen fans. It is important not to create a climate where those who aren’t interested in the tournament feel like “outsiders”.  Similarly, supporters of other nations will want the same flexibility for their nation’s key games as will be offered to England supporters. If these needs are not appropriately balanced, as well as being bad for morale, the employer may run the risk of a discrimination claim.

Finally, it is important that employers make it clear how unauthorised absences will be dealt with. Explaining that any absence that has not been authorised will not be paid, and that if there is a discernible pattern of unauthorised absences, this could lead to disciplinary action. It may be appropriate to monitor absence with greater scrutiny during the Rugby World Cup tournament.

This article has been posted by Sean McCann, the Managing Director of People Based Solutions an HR consultancy specialising in delivering outsourced HR solutions to small and medium sized businesses. If you would like to know more about how we can help you manage you transactional, operational and strategic HR systems, policies and procedures contact us at: enquiries@peoplebasedsolutions.com.


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