A recent study, carried out by JLT Employee Benefits, found that summer sporting events, this year including Wimbledon, the Ashes and the Open, cost UK businesses at least £100m in lost productivity due to “questionable” sick days or a lack of concentration for long periods of time during the working day. With the Rugby World Cup less than 50 days away, now is the time that employers should be acting to reduce absenteeism and a loss of productivity during this huge sporting event.
Employers could consider flexibility or incentives in the workplace which will allow employees to stay in work during the event, rather than pulling a ‘sickie’. Some incentives could be allowing one individual to access the scores online and note them down in a central place or consider screening a match on one computer or television within the office, though this will require a television licence for the premises. Any opportunities to find out scores or watch matches should not just focus on England games and these should be fairly chosen and not segregate any members of staff. Due to the Cup being held in England, the majority of weekday matches have mid-afternoon start times so you could consider some flexibility and allow staff to start a little earlier and finish in time to watch the match on TV, or travel there if they have tickets.
Even though businesses may make an effort to allow sport fans to get their fix at work, they may still find an increased rate of absence during the event. Before the commencement of the Cup, employers can circulate a reminder of the sickness notification requirements, the fact that a return to work interview will be carried out and that absence will be monitored. This could be enough to deter fake sickness though if this does happen, and you have enough evidence to show the absence was not genuine, this can be addressed as a disciplinary issue.
Though some employees will be caught up in the rugby hype, others may not be so and may consider avoiding work due to this. Being flexible or allowing broadcasting of the event may not please everyone and you should be aware that sporting enthusiasm can sometimes turn racist or sexist and you should consistently apply equality and harassment policies during this period.
For further advice on this issue contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.