The Rugby World Cup – Are you prepared?

Year Published: 2015

As England get off to a great start to the Rugby World Cup, is your company prepared for a potential increase in the number of ‘sick days’ following or on match days? Have you considered how you may manage several requests for early finishes with the promise of “I’ll make the time up”?

We’ve set out below some guidance on how you can prepare your business for the potential impact of the Rugby World Cup and we are of course here to discuss any particular issues with you if needed.

  1. Be informed – do you know the fixture dates?

Knowing the dates and times of each Rugby World Cup fixture will enable you to look out for any patterns in employee absence.

This may in turn lead to a more in depth investigation into an employee’s absence than would otherwise take place as part of a normal return to work interview.

  1. Implement a thorough return to work procedure throughout the year

We cannot stress enough the importance of return to work interviews.

Following an employee’s absence, a line manager or HR manager should be sitting down with that employee to discuss the reason for their absence, their current state of health, if they needed to visit a GP, whether or not they are taking any medication and how this medication may affect them in the workplace.

If employees understand that absences are closely monitored and managed, they are less likely to take a flippant approach to ‘pulling a sickie’.

  1. Have a clear absence policy in place and educate your employees about this

Absence policies can set out certain ‘trigger points’ which make it clear to employees at what point the business may consider elevating an absence issue into a more serious disciplinary matter.

A popular ‘trigger’ is four absences in a period of three months. Once employees hit this trigger, bring them into a meeting and discuss the absence levels with them in detail.

Policies can also set out reporting procedures for sick days and make it clear than any failure to follow this may be treated as a disciplinary issue.

Once employees understand that short term absences can be just as disruptive to the business as long term absences, and will be managed through an absence policy, they should be less likely to treat a day off or half a day off as ‘no big deal’.

Absence polices should be implemented fairly and consistently and care should be taken to apply these in a non-discriminatory way.

  1. Absences are not holidays!

It is common for employee to ask for their sick day to be treated as a ‘holiday’. This means that 1) they would get paid and 2) their absence record remains in tact.

The problem with treating sick days as annual leave is that you do not have an accurate record of sickness absence.

In turn this can lead to problems if absence records need to be relied upon during redundancy exercises or when investigating longer period of absences.

If staff request annual leave in advance in order to enjoy a sporting event, and this can be accommodated by the business, we would of course encourage this; cooperation with employees is key.

  1. Talk to your staff

The Rugby World Cup and other sporting events need not be viewed as disruptive.

Embracing the tournament is actually likely to reduce the chances of employees pulling ‘sickies’ or turning up late for work.

You may decide to run an all staff sweepstake, or host a showing of some of the matches for staff at the offices if you have the facility and a license to do this. Remember not all employees will be backing England during the tournament and so you need to think about applying a fair viewing policy for all.

A final thought

Highlighting to employees that you are keen for them to enjoy the experience will set the tone. You should clarify however, that you will be expecting a certain standard of behaviour and that you trust employees will cooperate with you to ensure the tournament is an enjoyable experience for the whole workforce.

For more information on employee absences during the Rugby World Cup or any other employment law matters, please contact our Employment Law & HR team on 0161 475 7676.


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