The 2015 Rugby World Cup is now well under way, with many large cities and towns across the country hosting games and welcoming supporters and fans from all over the world.

It is an exciting time for many and the event runs until 31 October 2015. So while excitement and team rivalry is at fever pitch for many, big sporting events such as this can create problems in the workplace.

ACAS have recently published guidance to help employers identify and prepare for any knock on (pun intended…) effect.

Some employees may plan ahead and either want annual leave on the day of the game (or take the day after off, anticipating a hangover!). Some may not want to use up their annual leave, but may still want to watch a big game during work hours. It is easier where you can plan for absences but employers should also watch out for any pattern of increases in sickness absence during this period, and overuse of the internet or social media during working hours.

So how do you deal with this, bearing in mind that you must be fair and consistent to all employees, including those who have no interest in these sporting events?

ACAS has published some top tips, including:-

  • In relation to annual leave, plan as far ahead in advance, including talking to employees who may be thinking of booking time off for big games. Enforce your annual leave policy, and expect that annual leave should be booked in the normal way, but proactive discussions with employees may assist in forward planning;
  • Consider whether you will make a special effort to monitor sickness absence during the period, particularly on a match day or following big matches. Sickness absence should be dealt with in the normal way.
  • You could consider having a more flexible working day (to try to get around any frustration of not being able to watch games). This could include employees coming in later or finishing sooner and then agreeing to make the time up. That could also include allowing employees to listen to the radio or watch TV when games are on. Flexibility could also involve employees swapping shifts, with permission;
  • In order to deal with a possible increase in the use of the internet or social media covering the rugby, you should ensure that you have a clear policy on internet usage during work time and that it is clearly communicated to employees. If you monitor internet usage, then your employees should be made fully aware.

Not all workplaces will want, or be reasonably able, to put in place the flexibility suggested above for a sporting event. However, if you do put in place temporary allowances during this time, then your approach should be fair and consistent. Not everyone will be interested in watching these games, and if they choose not to participate, they should not feel that they are unfairly or inconsistently treated. You should also ensure that any temporary changes to your policy, particularly regarding flexible working, are not discriminatory.

It is an event to embrace and enjoy, but employers should prepare for any consequences that this great sporting event may bring.