Thursday, 19 September 2019 09:29

Rugby World Cup Late Starts

By the time you read this the Rugby World Cup will have already kicked off in Japan. As with most large sporting events, we should give a little thought to its potential effect on staff attendance over the coming weeks. For example, fans might be inclined to take spontaneous, unauthorised absence to watch games or perhaps to recover from win celebrations.

To be fair though, the risk shouldn’t be too great. With the tournament hosted in the land of the rising sun, matches will be aired in the mornings in the UK; too early for most workers to be thinking about having a drink. Plus, the vast majority of the England and play-off matches are scheduled on the weekends; so unlikely to impact businesses operating Monday to Friday.

Fans of the other home nations however are not so lucky as some of their matches will be shown on weekday mornings and it’s funny how rugby seems to bring out people’s deep-seated patriotism. Plus of course, there are the other countries to consider, and fans of the sport itself. It might then, be a good idea to have a plan of action up your sleeve in case you’re faced with an unauthorised absence.

In agreeing a contract of employment, employees are committing to make themselves available for work at the times laid out within it. If a crucial game emerges or runs over time, an employee might be tempted to ‘throw a sickie’ if holiday time hasn’t been booked. However, employees who fail to attend work claiming to be ill can be at risk of disciplinary action up to and including dismissal if their employer has evidence that they are not actually sick.

There may be a temptation to let the odd “sickie” go and make allowances for the fact that there is a World Cup competition going on. After all, unless you have a sick-pay scheme, you don’t have to pay an employee for one day of sickness absence. The danger here however is that this sends the wrong message and could be seen as ‘custom and practice’, making it difficult to enforce any action on another occasion.

A better solution might be to agree a temporary flexible working policy, if your business can manage it, to allow the odd late start or extended lunch-break. Most of the weekday matches will be over quite early so provided a late start is logged and the time made back, there’s probably no harm done. Equally an hour tacked on to the beginning a lunch-hour should be long enough to catch the late-morning kick-offs. This approach will also score you points with your employees but be sure to apply any such policy consistently. You don’t want to be seen to be showing favouritism, or in extreme cases, risk a claim for discrimination.

If you're inclined to set up a TV at work to allow staff to watch games, remember that you'll need a TV licence for your business premises if you don't already have one.

If you’re not able to or don’t want to accommodate a flexible arrangement, then staff desperate to watch games will have to book holiday. If, like most companies you operate a first-come, first-served policy for holiday booking it’s vital that you apply the policy fairly and consistently. Again, you’ll want to avoid any claims of treating staff less favourably than others should you need to turn down a holiday request.

A clear and robust holiday and absence policy is a must for situations like this. Make sure that you are full versed in yours and that your employees understand it too so it can be your fallback position should the need arise.  

We’re here to help with employee issues like this and others, so if you need any additional support or advice, please get in touch on 01452 331331 or by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 1497 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 May 2022 10:51


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