As if the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes weren't exciting enough, the summer of sport is now continuing into autumn with the Rugby World Cup kicking off in Japan today. Great news for sports fans but perhaps not so good for employers.

The trouble is, while the most exciting days of cricket took place at the weekend, many of the rugby matches will be during the working day. Wales start off their competition at 11.15am on Monday and England are in action the following Thursday at 11.45am. Will ardent rugby fans be tempted to call in sick on those days or ask to “work” at home. If they are at work, will they be surreptitiously checking their phones every five minutes or following the game on their laptops?

Employers don’t want to be killjoys, but they don’t want to be taken for a ride either, so here are a few tips to get through the next seven weeks:

  • Remind employees of your sickness and absence policy and make sure they comply with reporting procedures. It’s a good idea to conduct “return to work” interviews after periods of absence so that you can gauge whether the absence was genuine or a case of World Cup fever.
  • Monitor sickness absence patterns. If you don’t believe the absence is genuine, investigate it further and follow disciplinary action if necessary.
  • Be fair and consistent in allocating holiday. If too many employees want the same day off then “first come first served” may be the best approach. Don’t forget, not all employees will be interested in rugby.  The World Cup spans half term so a lot of parents will want time off then for childcare duties.
  • If you have a workforce dominated by rugby fans can you incorporate some flexibility into the working day? Perhaps employees could be allowed to watch the match as long as they come in earlier or work later to make up the time.
  • Don’t forget those employees who have no wish to watch the rugby and who will probably end up working harder to cover absences. A few cakes or the promise of a couple of late starts in November will go a long way to keeping them happy.

Good luck and may the best team win!