Pre-dawn kick-offs. Mid-week games. The men in black may play havoc with getting a full day’s work out of your staff.


With the Rugby World Cup now underway, employers need to think about how they will manage employees throughout what is being billed as the toughest World Cup yet.

With the tournament taking place in England and Wales, many Rugby fans will be up in the middle of the night or making an early start to their day to catch the kick-off of games. With many pool matches and some games in the business end of the tournament scheduled during the working week, employees may turn up to work late or tired, or not show up at all. It may also result in employees requesting flexible working arrangements during the tournament.

Got a policy?

An employer’s first step is to check its policies on the taking of leave and potential absenteeism or lateness. An employer should ensure that all employees are aware of these policies and that they clearly outline:

  • the employer’s expectations;
  • the process for requesting leave;
  • any consequences of persistent lateness or unauthorised leave;
  • what disciplinary action may follow; and
  • who the employee should report lateness or an inability to work to and by when.

The Rugby World Cup is a timely reminder to employers to ensure that their policies are up to date and for employers to consider whether any new policies need to be developed.

How flexible do you need to be?

From March 2015, all employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements at any time. Employees can make requests about their hours of work, days of work and also their place of work. Unsurprisingly, some employers may therefore see requests from employees to vary their hours on game days or to work from home. When responding to such requests, employers need to ensure that they are aware of their obligations under Part 6AA of the Employment Relations Act 2000 and that they respond to any requests accordingly. Employers have a wide discretion as to whether requests are granted.

Read more about flexible working arrangements

Be open and engage

The key for employers is to engage with employees early to clearly communicate their expectations and to encourage employees to request any leave in advance so that the employer can plan ahead. This should reduce any unplanned absences and also the effect on an employer’s business.

The Rugby World Cup may even be an opportunity for an employer to increase the morale and engagement of its employees.

Dealing with unauthorised leave or impaired employees

In the event that an employee persistently shows up to work late or in an impaired state, or an employer suspects that an employee’s sick leave is not genuine, what can an employer do?

It may simply be a case of having an informal chat with the employee to remind them of their obligations. On the other hand, the employer may wish to commence a disciplinary process with the employee. If this is the case, the employer needs to ensure that any decision to take disciplinary action is substantively and procedurally justified. In that respect, an employer’s actions, and how they acted, must be what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances. This can vary depending on the circumstances presented and in that respect we would advise employers to seek legal advice before commencing a disciplinary process.