Do employers need a sporting event policy for the Rugby World Cup?

BrightHR CEO and HR expert Alan Price considers whether employers should have a policy in place to avoid unauthorised absence ahead of key matches

With a few days to go to the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, teams will be hard at work preparing their teams for success in the tournament. At the same time, employers should be taking the necessary precautions to manage their staff and ensure provisions are in place to keep productivity levels high.

In practice, you do not need a specific policy on the Rugby World Cup to outline your organisation’s stance on the matter. Pre-existing policies on absence reporting, internet usage and workplace conduct should be sufficient to prevent staff spending all their working day following the tournament during working time. However, employers are advised to re-communicate the policies to staff or to explain any temporary allowances that will be in place to accommodate rugby fans.

As the tournament takes place in Japan, some games will be taking place during morning business hours. Employees may become distracted during these times as they look to follow the score online and workplace productivity will fall as a result. To mitigate this, you should ensure existing policies on internet usage and the use of personal mobile devices are applied. You may also consider blocking certain websites for relevant periods.

Some employers may allow staff to keep up with the tournament’s developments to avoid any discord. One favourable method would be to nominate an individual to periodically check on the scores and inform colleagues of any significant developments. Others may consider placing a TV in the staff room, allowing employees to watch the games during designated break times. Those wishing to do so should ensure they have the necessary TV licence in place and consider the risk of individuals taking extended or unauthorised breaks to keep up to date with the action.

Although it is common for absences to increase during major sporting events, you should not jump to conclusions and return to work interviews should be conducted to find out the reason for the absence. To reduce absenteeism, you may consider allowing a period of flexible working so employees can start slightly later to watch the match. It is important to allow the same privilege to fans of all teams, as well as those who are not Rugby fans to ensure they are not met with any disadvantage.

While you will naturally want to ensure the Rugby World Cup does not affect workplace productivity, you may choose to incorporate the tournament to promote a positive workplace culture.

However, if you proceed, remember to be measured in your approach using a combination of existing policies and practical reasoning when plotting your course of action this September and October.