So the Rugby World Cup is almost upon us and there is no getting away from the fact that it will be on the TV, radio and other forms of media. Whilst for some it may not mean much, to rugby fanatics this is a big occasion and may well present absenteeism issues for employers. The way to deal with the issue is through prevention, by implementing a number of measures that can help avoid potential pitfalls.
Firstly, ensure your HR workplace policies are up-to-date and cover all employee behaviour that might be affected by any sporting event. These are likely to be policies relating to, for example, absence and computer usage. For some issues, it may be more appropriate to create a short-term policy that specifically deals with the World Cup, e.g. approach to watching games during working hours. Communicating policy updates to employees, making employees aware of additional monitoring during the event and explaining the consequences of not following correct procedures should help to reduce unscheduled absence and unauthorised conduct.
Employers should not wait to start talking about policy updates, particularly those to do with managing leave and working hours. To help prevent unexpected absenteeism employers need to communicate to employees that they should book annual leave well in advance of the event. This should be communicated to all employees now if you not have already done so.
You may need to be flexible in respect of allowing longer lunch breaks so that staff can watch events during the working day, where applicable. Employers may also want to consider screening some of the games in the workplace, but in doing so should consider how to fairly choose which events to screen. Also remember that a television licence for the premises may well be needed.
Remember those who have no interest in the World Cup and who simply want time off to go away – you may need to be more flexible with your annual leave restrictions so that it doesn’t appear that sports fans only are being favoured, otherwise if you seem to be unfair then you may face litigation. Employees should be aware that you take a firm stance when it comes to absenteeism and that you will not tolerate unauthorised absence.
Despite best efforts to deter absence ahead of the World Cup, employers may still find an increased rate of absence. Remind employees of your sickness notification requirements and the fact that return-to-work interviews will be carried out on a consistent basis to monitor the reasons for absence.
Communicate to all employees that, whilst you are prepared to be more flexible, you still expect employees to stick to the rules and anyone found to be taking advantage will be dealt with accordingly. Stick to your contractual disciplinary procedure to avoid claims of breach of contract, and always ensure that investigations into alleged misconduct are properly and fairly investigated.
Employers should be aware that sporting enthusiasm can sometimes turn into racist or sexist abuse, which must not be tolerated, especially when different teams are supported. Employers should make sure it is known that equality and harassment policies apply as much to discussions at work about sport as they do to any other subject.
Providing policies that are watertight and regularly updated should cover you for future sporting events such as the Olympic Games next year and any other significant event, however as always ensure that your policies are watertight, communicated and enforced fairly.
For further clarification on this issue, please call our Advice Service on 0844 892 2772