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How to manage staff during major sporting events

The 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off on the 18th September and with England as the host nation, the sense of excitement and anticipation is building. However, as an employer you can find yourself faced with a variety of issues that you wouldn’t normally have to deal with.

 What issues may I be faced with?

Different sporting events will bring different challenges, and this usually depends on the popularity of the event. Below are some of the issues you may have to face:

  • Multiple employees asking for annual leave at the same time
  • Employees taking unauthorised absence
  • Employees consuming more alcohol throughout the event, resulting in staff being under the influence of alcohol at work or being hungover from the previous day or night
  • Productivity drains, such as excessive use of the internet or discussions with colleagues
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Requests for flexible working

How do I manage staff during major sporting events?

Depending on the size of your organisation and the impact you experience, you may consider implementing a policy on major sporting events; consider this as your opportunity to clearly state your approach and expectations of staff during such events. In the absence of this, here are some hints and tips to consider:

Your overall approach

Having some flexibility during major sporting events can help build employee morale and employee engagement, and therefore accepting that there will be some disruption and embracing the event could help to improve employee relations within your organisation.

Watching events

If events fall in working hours, you could choose to screen the event at work or allow staff to keep up to speed on events over the internet; this could help avoid unauthorised absence and be a good team building exercise. If you decide to do this, it would be advisable to set out your expectations in advance. This should include things like:

  • The amount of time staff can spend watching the event, and whether they are expected to make up the time afterwards
  • That employees should not drink alcohol during the screening
  • If you do not normally allow personal internet use at work, be clear about the amount of time you expect them to spend on the internet and that it is a temporary arrangement

Depending on the nature and size of your business, you could think about operating flexible working arrangements throughout the course of the event. This may enable employees to leave early, start late or to have an extended lunch break to fit around the games. However you choose to work, it is important that employees understand line management approval is sought and that communication is clear and fair.

Requests for annual leave

Prior to really popular sporting events, especially those falling within working hours, you may find it impossible to accept all the requests for leave you receive. It would be advisable to deal with these in the same way as you deal with other popular times for taking annual leave, such as Christmas or Easter. Whichever way you decide to approach this, it is important that employees are clear about the process for requesting leave and that it is fairly applied.

Unauthorised absence

It is important to follow your organisation’s relevant procedures if you think there is a case of unauthorised absence or someone is sick during a major sporting event. If someone is off sick who has previously had an annual leave request rejected, it is easy to assume the sickness is not genuine; try not to jump to conclusions, and follow your normal absence procedures. If there is a clear case that the illness is not genuine (i.e. the individual has been seen at an event or in the pub watching the event) then follow your usual disciplinary procedures.


Make it clear to your employees the standard of behaviour you expect during major sports events and that the disciplinary procedure will be used should employees fall below this level. Depending on the nature of the misconduct, you may decide to deal with it informally. However, if the misconduct is more serious then it would be advisable to follow your formal procedures.

Behaviour outside of work

If you find yourself faced with a situation where someone has been involved in criminal activity or behaviour at, or in relation to, a sporting event, it’s important to consider whether it’s appropriate to follow your disciplinary procedures and whether it is appropriate to dismiss the individual. In coming to this decision, you’re advised to take into account the impact of the behaviour on the individual’s ability to do their job and/or the relevance of the conviction on their job. A criminal conviction shouldn’t automatically lead to an individual’s dismissal.

If you find you need further advice on any of the above, please do give us a call.