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Watching the 2019 Rugby World cup in work time


Sporting patriotism is set to break out across the UK this autumn as the home nations line up for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

With all 48 fixtures screened live on terrestrial TV and every match kicking off in the morning between 5.45am and 11.45am our time, people will be keen to watch.

However, as most matches will fall on weekdays and during normal working hours, this could pose a dilemma for employers. The tournament runs from 20th September to 2nd November, so unless rugby fans have booked the whole six weeks off, then some games will clash with working time.

To balance the needs of your workplace with the sporting desires of your staff, it’s worth putting agreements in place well ahead of the competition’s start date.  Your contingency plans should address issues such as match-related absences or lateness, multiple requests for time off and staff watching the rugby on their pc, tablet or smartphone during working hours.

If you currently use an employment handbook and contracts prepared by HR:4UK, then you’ll already have clear policies on managing and dealing with holiday requests. Given the level of interest in this tournament it’s likely many people will want to take the same dates and letting everyone take time off just won’t be practical. Remember that as an employer you can turn down a holiday request if the absence will impact adversely on your business.

To keep everyone happy, be flexible – perhaps by allowing later starts or shift swaps so that rugby fans can catch the game before they leave for work.  England and Ireland supporters (well those who don’t work weekends) are fortunate in that nearly all their matches will fall on a Saturday or Sunday, but it’s a different story for Wales and Scotland fans. Their national teams both have two weekday fixtures. 

Your workforce might well include supporters of the other 16 nations in the cup, so recognise diversity and ensure they too get the same opportunity to follow their teams. But also don’t overlook those employees who aren’t interested in rugby. To avoid accusations of unfair treatment you must make sure non-fans aren’t disadvantaged if they ask to take annual leave during the tournament.

Be mindful of staff claiming that they’re unfit for work on days when certain matches are being played.  Similarly, you might notice staff calling in sick on the mornings after their team has had a notable victory /defeat. Have a mechanism in place for monitoring sickness absence and a clear management policy for dealing with unauthorised time off.

You might also see more staff using Facebook, Twitter and sport-related forums during the competition. Make sure that your business has a clear internet and social media usage policy before the tournament kicks off and communicate this to all staff. If you intend to monitor internet usage during the world cup, then you’re legally obliged to notify your employees of your intention. HR:4UK clients who are on our Upper service will already have an IT and Communications policy in place which provides for this. Those clients who would like to upgrade their service level to include this policy should please get in touch with us.

Big international sporting events are huge fun and present a great opportunity for teambuilding, so think about letting staff watch games at work. You might be able to set up a viewing area for them. If you do this, ask staff to make up the time they spend watching the games so that non-rugby fans don’t feel disadvantaged.

No one wants to be a spoilsport and with careful planning, employers can make provision for rugby fans while meeting the needs of their business.  But whatever you choose to do, fair play must always prevail.

If you need further guidance on preparing for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, call HR:4UK now on 01455 444222