Rugby World Cup 2015: guidance for employers

England's Jonny May tackles Eoin Reddan of Ireland at a warm-up game for the Rugby World Cup 2015. Photo: Javier Garcia/BPI/REX
England's Jonny May tackles Eoin Reddan of Ireland at a warm-up game for the Rugby World Cup 2015. Photo: Javier Garcia/BPI/REX

The Rugby World Cup 2015 begins on 18 September and ends with the final at Twickenham on 31 October. While many matches take place in the evening and at weekends, employers need to think about how they can minimise disruption at work while helping staff enjoy the tournament.

Employers that operate during evenings and weekends in particular might have concerns about increased absence or employees following the matches when they should be working.

There are also some weekday afternoon kick offs (such as Scotland v Japan at 2.30pm on Wednesday 23 September) that could cause problems for businesses that work 9 to 5.

England are the tournament hosts, with some matches being held in Cardiff, so employers based in the host towns and cities might face competing requests for holiday from employees who have been able to get tickets.

Employers can avoid headaches during the six weeks of competition by following our seven-point checklist.

1. Consider allowing employees to follow matches during working hours

Depending on the nature of the business, allowing employees to follow matches while at work could mean less of an impact on productivity in the long run.

2. Put measures in place to deter non-genuine sickness absence

Employees are less likely to throw a sickie if they are aware that absence that coincides with rugby world cup matches is being closely monitored.

England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland’s group matches and knock-out fixtures

Fri 18 Sep, 8:00pm – England v Fiji
Sat 19 Sep, 2:30pm – Ireland v Canada
Sun 20 Sep, 2:30pm – Wales v Uruguay
Wed 23 Sep, 2:30pm – Scotland v Japan
Sat 26 Sep, 8.00pm – England v Wales
Sun 27 Sep, 2:30pm – Scotland v USA
Sun 27 Sep, 4:45pm – Ireland v Romania
Thu 1 Oct, 4:45pm – Wales v Fiji
Sat 3 Oct, 4:45pm – South Africa v Scotland
Sat 3 Oct, 8:00pm – England v Australia
Sun 4 Oct, 4:45pm – Ireland v Italy
Sat 10 Oct, 2:30pm – Samoa v Scotland
Sat 10 Oct, 4:45pm – Australia v Wales
Sat 10 Oct, 8:00pm – England v Uruguay
Sun 11 Oct, 4:45pm – France v Ireland

Sat 17 Oct, 4:00pm and 8:00pm – Quarter finals
Sun 18 Oct, 1:00pm and 4:00pm – Quarter finals
Sat 24 Oct, 4:00pm – Semi final
Sun 25 Oct, 4:00pm – Semi final
Sat 31 Oct, 4:00pm – Final

3. Agree to temporary flexible working

Allowing employees to leave work early, in time for a weekday 4:45pm kick off, for example, could prevent them calling in sick or surreptitiously following the match while they should be working.

4. Beware of the risk of harassment and discrimination

Employers should take steps to encourage a friendly inclusive atmosphere, and prevent behaviour that could amount to harassment.

While rugby has a better reputation than football for rivalry between fans, issues can still arise, particularly where an employee supports a team different to the majority of his or her colleagues.

Remember that creating special treatment for England fans should be matched with equivalent opportunities for other fans, whether they support Ireland, Australia or Tonga.

5. Be clear about the rules on internet use

Even if an employer decides to allow employees to follow matches at work, it should be clear about what it considers to be excessive internet use.

It should also ensure that its network will not be affected if a number of employees stream live matches at the same time.

6. Decide how to deal with competing leave requests

If it’s not possible to accommodate all requests for annual leave, employers could end up with some disappointed ticket holders and perhaps an increase in unauthorised absence.

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of the rules on booking holiday and that it may not be possible for all requests to be approved.

7. Put a policy in place and publicise it

Once they have decided what approach to take, whether this is to relax normal rules to allow employees to enjoy the tournament or to put in place strict measures to maintain business as usual, employers need to make their employees aware of what is expected of them. A policy on sporting events can be used to set out the employer’s approach.

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