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2011 Rugby World Cup: guidance for employers

BY Margaret Anne Soderqvist-Clark
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

This year’s rugby world cup is hosted by New Zealand and while it's unlikely to cause employers issues to the same degree as football's FIFA World Cup, it may be prudent to provide a clear policy on the tournament. 

Given the time difference (New Zealand is eleven hours ahead of UK time), issues could arise due to some key games being played during working hours. Furthermore, for the duration of these types of big sporting events, it is not uncommon for employers to see an increase in annual leave requests, sickness absence, use of non-work related websites and poor performance.  

Clearly business needs have to be met, however to weather these highlights in the sporting calendar with the minimum of upheaval it is perhaps best to be flexible but clear about the limits of that flexibility.  

Annual Leave Requests 
Employees should already be aware of the organisation’s policy on annual leave. However, employers can choose to take a more flexible approach to the policy if this is possible. If this is contrary to organisation’s annual leave policy, it should be made clear that this is a temporary measure only, and one that is at the discretion of the employer depending on the needs of the business at the time.  Any temporary changes in policy should also be applied fairly and consistently to all employees.  

Sickness Absence 
Employers should monitor levels of attendance, sickness and lateness accordingly throughout the period of the World Cup, looking for any patterns. They should remind staff that Employees should firstly be reminded that the usual sickness absence policy applies and that any unauthorised absences could result in disciplinary action.  

Internet/Social Networking Sites  
It would not be unexpected for employers to note an increase in the use of Facebook, Twitter and news and sporting websites.  Employers should have a clear policy on internet use at work in place, however it is important to reiterate that an internet policy exists and that they should be familiar with it.  For employers who monitor internet usage, under data protection legislation employees should be made aware that this is the case.  

If it is possible and/or convenient, employers could be more flexible about start and finish times of employees.  Provision could be made for staff to make up time if appropriate.  They could also consider allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch television at work or to swap shifts. Any changes to working hours should however be approved in advance and it should be made clear that this is a temporary arrangement.  

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