Tips to get your workplace over the try line | EEF

Tips to get your workplace over the try line during the World Cup

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The Rugby World Cup is upon us at last! The opening ceremony on Friday 18 September at Twickenham kicks off the tournament, which runs to 31 October. Whether you’re a fan of the game or not, with England hosting it is likely that at some point during the tournament’s 48 matches you are going to feel the impact in your workplace, particularly if you are based in one of the host towns/cities. So, here are EEF’s top tips for tackling some of the more trying issues that may arise.



Avoid scrums for last minute leave requests

Many die-hard fans will have already studied the fixture list, bought their tickets (or subscribed to Sky Sports) and made their leave applications accordingly. Others however may be more inclined to make plans ‘on-the-fly’ as rugby fever takes hold.

For some employers, the fact that most matches are scheduled either at the weekend, or for late afternoon kick offs will limit concerns.  However, for those operating evening shifts and weekend working there is more potential for problems.

How might you deal with a big increase in leave requests in relation to certain matches?  It might be worth reconfirming at this point what your leave booking notice requirements are and confirming that these are still applicable, so as to avoid having to deal with a rush of last minute applications. 

You might also need to limit the number of leave requests you can grant for a particular date, or from a particular shift/section of the workforce?  However, you must ensure that you deal with any competing leave requests fairly and consistently.  Remember, not all leave requests will be in order to watch the rugby! Avoid the risk of complaints of discrimination due to perceived favouritism towards those with sporting interests.  However, don’t make assumptions either, it is estimated that at least twenty per cent of rugby union’s loyal fan base is female!

Make sure your team is on board with your game plan in relation to swapping shifts and/or changing start/finish times

If you are willing to allow employees to swap shifts with others, or possibly alter their start/finish times, ensure you clearly communicate requirements/arrangements for this, including who needs to approve such arrangements and so forth. Again, ensure that you treat all requests for flexibility consistently, even if they are not rugby related.

Is there anyone on the bench

If you are happy to take a very flexible approach to working arrangements during the World Cup, it is worth ensuring that you have a solid back up plan in terms of extra resources should the need occur. For example, do you have ready access to an agency for temporary placements?

Keep your eye on the ball

Depending on the nature of your business, allowing employees to watch matches during working hours might limit the potential for lost productivity. What is your current position on employees accessing the internet and social media during working hours? What do your IT and social media policies say about the personal use of company equipment? What about employees using their own mobile phones/tablets?  Are you willing to amend such policies temporarily? Make it clear if/when employees will be allowed to watch games during working hours.

Injury time – prepare to deal with sickies

Inevitably, there will be some people who either forgot to book leave, or have no leave left to book, and are therefore tempted to take ‘a sickie’. Or those whose ‘sickness’ might be self-inflicted if they overindulge in post-match celebrations in the pub.  Making a false sickness claim, especially if an employee is entitled to contractual sick pay, amounts to a fraud on your company. Employees should already be aware that abuse of your sickness or absence reporting policies is a disciplinary offence. It is worth monitoring workforce absence levels closely during the tournament period to gauge whether your sickness/absence reporting policies are doing their jobs effectively. Tweet this A policy of holding return-to-work interviews after every sickness absence can be a very effective deterrent to abuse.

Match fit - Health and safety considerations

If your employees are watching matches prior to the start of their shifts (for example for night shift workers) emphasise that your drugs and alcohol policies will remain in force throughout the tournament and there will be no exemptions by virtue of World Cup celebrations or commiserations.

Exercise team building

There’s nothing quite like a sporting tournament to raise workforce morale and promote good inter-office dynamics. What opportunities might there be in your workplace to use the World Cup to bring your teams together? Initiatives like making big screen facilities available to watch matches together (if they occur at the end of your working day), or maybe even allowing employees to use dress down days to sport their applicable team’s shirt. Tweet this

Some things to remember however: If you are making big screen facilities available for employees, ensure you have an appropriate broadcasting licence for public entertainment.

Also, remind employees that when demonstrating support for a particular national team, they should not act in a way that breaches your dignity at work policy. National ‘banter’ has the potential to stray into the realms of race discrimination and harassment – so ensure employees are aware that all members of the workforce are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity - no matter who they support!


How can EEF assist?

Our HR and employment law team are on hand to offer advice and support tailored to suit your business. For more information on how we can help, call us today on 0808 168 5874 or email




Principal Legal Adviser

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