In September and October 2015 the UK was fortunate enough to host the high-profile, international sports tournament, the Rugby World Cup. Such an event always has a significant impact on the employment market, particularly within the workforce of the host nation itself. Employers often find themselves faced with a range of unique challenges and queries that might seem straightforward to deal with at first but actually require careful consideration so as to set the right precedent and not lay the foundation for future problems. With that in mind the workplace experts Acas (the Advistory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) launched guidance specifically to help employers deal with challenges such as increased absence and performance issues generated as a result of the Rugby World Cup. This advice can be applied to a range of situations in which working patterns may be disrupted external events. At the heart of the advice from Acas was the suggestion that employers, including owners of small businesses, should be well prepared and have agreements in place that cover:
- Requests for time off.
- Sickness absence.
- Website use during working hours.
Such agreements need to be clear and well communicated to make sure that employees are treated fairly and consistently. Top tips Acas also published some hints and tips for employers to help them prepare with regard to a number of specific areas:
- Time off requests. Avoid perceived favouritism by considering all employees when receiving requests for time off, not just the ones who are sports fans. Ask for such requests to be submitted early so you can get organised and manage workloads fairly. Finally, make sure you adhere to the company annual leave policy at all times so that any decisions are totally defensible.
- Sickness absence. Think about introducing special measures to monitor and manage sickness absence and late attendance during the tournament. Again, make sure that everything you do is consistent with company policy so that you can be confident you are treating employees fairly.
- Consider the possibility of introducing temporary measures for more flexible working arrangements, like listening to the radio or watching TV during working hours or even scheduling breaks when specific matches are on. Any small dips in productivity will almost certainly be countered by greater engagement in the long term as people will appreciate the efforts being made for them.
- Social media. Remind employees of the policy and guidance regarding web use during the tournament period. Be as clear as you possibly can about what is expected of them in this respect as well as your role as an employer. If you plan on monitoring usage for example, you must tell your employees that you are going to do this.
Making the most of an exciting event In the words of Stewart Gee, Acas Head of Information and Guidance, “The Rugby World Cup is an exciting event for fans but staff should be prepared to avoid getting into an unnecessary scrum as they push for time off to see a match. Our guidance published today can help managers get the best results for their team and maintain their league ranking.”