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GDP peril from Rugby World Cup

“There is widespread evidence that absenteeism increases around the time of big games,” according to Duncan Cotterill lawyers.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that employees tend to take more sick leave around the time of significant games, the legal firm’s employment team said.

Employers considering their own game plan should clarify expectations around attendance at work and policies on taking leave. They could allow employees to work flexible hours, swap shifts of take annual or unpaid leave, provided that business operations are not compromised.

“Managing suspicious or excessive use of sick leave. The recent changes to the Holidays Act 2003 mean that employers can require employees to provide a medical certificate for their absence even if the absence has lasted for fewer than three days.

“In order to minimise or manage the potential for staff absences, employers could consider providing a TV or radio for employees to watch or listen to matches. Alternatively, staff could be allowed to access live feeds or scores on the internet while working or during breaks.

“These types of allowances would need to be clear and well thought out, to avoid any misunderstanding. For example, where staff are allowed to keep track of games on the internet, then the terms of that access should be clearly communicated, particularly where this type of access would ordinarily be a breach of the employer’s computer or internet policy.”

Employers could also ask employees to make up the time they have spent following the game, Duncan Cotterill said.

“Another issue may arise if employees attend work but are unable to adequately carry out their duties because of a late night, a hangover or worse, being intoxicated. Disciplinary action may well be justified.”

Emotions may run high during the tournament and supporters’ otherwise sound judgment may be impaired, Duncan Cotterill said.

“This could result in an employee becoming involved in inappropriate conduct outside the workplace – for example, if the employee has a fight with a fan from a rival team, or if the employee is arrested following a night of drunken festivities.

“If an employee’s actions outside work can be linked back to the employer and have the potential to bring the employer into disrepute, this can be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Employees need to be aware that how they conduct themselves outside of the workplace is not necessarily a private matter.”

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