The World Cup has arrived...
… For a sport which is not quite as dominant as football, the Rugby Union World Cup will kick off on the 18th September and will run through to 30th October 2015; although the tournament being played out on home turf may well generate increased interest… Most of the matches will be played in the evenings or on weekends; but there are a few scheduled to take place either at 2 30 pm or 4 45 pm on weekdays and this will inevitably lead to questions from employers on how to deal with employee absence during this time.
There is no obligation on employers to accommodate requests for time off work for employees wishing to watch matches, nor is there any obligation on them to provide facilities within the workplace that allow staff to watch matches whilst at work or on work premises. However, there is an argument for making provisions which recognise that there is likely to be an increased number of employees wanting to take time to watch these matches and it is better to proactively manage the situation than to react to it.
There are a few ways in which quick wins can be achieved for both the employer and employee in these circumstances; for instance where the nature of the service/business of the Company permits, allowing staff to work flexibly on match-days i.e. coming into work early and leaving early or working through lunch breaks. Alternatively, employers may consider putting TV screens into offices or communal rest areas and allowing staff, particularly those working evening/night shifts, to watch matches in a supervised/controlled manner.
Obviously some employees may submit a request to take annual leave and in this instance, employers should manage these as they would any normal request for annual leave; ensuring that they are handled fairly and equitably for all staff making such requests.
Sadly, there is also likely to be some employees who decide to ‘play’ the system in order to get time off work by calling in sick… In these cases, employers are entitled to request a ‘first day certificate’ from employees; though where the employee has to pay for such a certificate, the employer should reimburse them and not leave them out of pocket. If planning to impose such a procedure for the duration of the World Cup, employers should ensure that this is communicated widely to all employees.
The saving grace is that this particular sporting event only comes around every 4-years; though it is mixed with other major sporting events such as the Olympics in 2016. However, it is key to remember that the manner in which employers choose to handle each of these events individually should not create any precedent for any future events as they happen and employers can, for the avoidance of any doubt, explicitly state that any provisions they are making for the Rugby World Cup are for this event only.