September 10

Is your business ready for Rugby World Cup 2015?!

The 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off on 18th September 2015 here in the UK. It is due to last for around six weeks with the final being played on 31 October 2015.

It is vital that you plan early to reduce the impact on staffing and productivity levels. Many employers are expecting a spike in annual leave requests and absenteeism. This is especially so if you operate evening shift patterns as England’s group stage games all kick off at 8pm.

Whilst you could encounter problems with over enthusiastic employees who are heading out of work to catch the games (which will primarily be shown in the afternoons and in the evening), you should also recognise that the tournament provides an opportunity to take advantage of high morale and improve levels of employee engagement.

Potential issues:

There are a number of potential issues for you to consider in the run up to the main event:

– too many employees may want to take annual leave on the same day;
– higher levels of unauthorised sickness absences;
– abuse of internet policy;
– discrimination; and
– harassment.

In light of these issues, consider the following steps you could take to reduce these risks well in advance of the start of the World Cup.

Plan in advance:

– instal a TV for all key games – not just the England matches
– harness enthusiasm for the tournament through themed team activities
– remind staff about the organisation’s sickness absence policy
– set some ground rules to cover behaviour throughout the tournament
– initiate flexible working
– accommodate non-rugby fans

Set out expectations

The first step is to ensure that all company policies are up to date, are clear, set out the consequences of any breaches and have been issued to all of your employees, to ensure no-one falls foul. The key policies which should be considered are:

– Holiday Policy;
– Sickness Absence Policy;
– Unauthorised Absence Policy;
– Equal Opportunities Policy;
– Internet and E-mail Usage and Monitoring / Social Media Policy; and
– Disciplinary Policy.

By doing this, you can ensure that employees are clear as to what is acceptable, and what is expected of them. This will make it easier for you to deal with anyone that crosses the line.

How to tackle absences

During such high profile popular sporting events, which tend to last over the course of several weeks, statistics show that employee absences cost UK businesses millions of pounds per day, with most people pulling ‘sickies’ on the day after a key match.

To try to avoid unplanned absences, encourage staff to take annual holiday leave if they want to watch the rugby and enjoy the associated festivities. Be careful to ensure that it is made clear to employees that requests for leave are not guaranteed to be approved and holiday requests will be granted fairly.

Further, make it clear to employees in advance that unauthorised absences during the tournament will be subject to closer scrutiny and they may have to participate in a return to work interview. This will hopefully deter employees from calling in sick unless they are genuinely sick.


You could offer your employees the opportunity to work flexibly around games, for example, allowing them to work through lunch breaks, or come into work early and then leave early in order to watch the game.

There is huge goodwill to be gained from accommodating flexible working requests, as it is a great way to thank and engage staff. To ensure that nothing slips through the net, it should be made clear that any such arrangement will need to be pre-approved in order to ensure that adequate cover is available.

All offers of flexible working must be made available to all employees, regardless of whether they want to watch the rugby. Limiting the offer to rugby fans only is likely to alienate certain employees and cause tension in the workplace.

Watching at work – keeping an eye on the ball

Fortunately, for many employers, most popular matches are scheduled to kick off during the evening, which will limit some of the disruption to the working day, although there are several which start mid-afternoon. However, the impact may be more extensive amongst employees who regularly work late shifts, night shifts and weekends.

Consider showing the rugby at work or even making it into an event that all employees are welcome to attend. Remember to be alert to the fact that not everyone will want to be involved and that all employees should be given the same benefits as employees supporting the England team and their ‘home nations’.

Dealing with alcohol

Many of the tournament’s matches will take place during the evening and it is likely most rugby fans will be enjoying the game with a drink in hand. You need to make it clear that it is unacceptable to come to work suffering from the effects of alcohol the next day such that they are incapable of performing their duties properly. Again, make sure you have an up to date alcohol policy and consider sending a memo reminding staff of its contents.

Internet and Social Media Policies

You may find that employees spend a significant amount of time on the internet, getting score updates or general news about the tournament. If a large number of employees stream a match to their desktops all at the same time there may be an impact on your network, as well as on general productivity levels. Therefore, set out a clear policy about what will and will not be tolerated.


Try and get your staff excited and engaged by competing in a Rugby World Cup fantasy league – the very best way to encourage a friendly and inclusive atmosphere!!

September 9

Kicking the habit….should you allow employees to use e-cigarettes in the workplace?

There has been a substantial rise in the use of electronic cigarettes since smoking in public areas, including the workplace, was banned in 2006. The organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), estimates that around 2.1 million adults currently use electronic cigarettes. This leads to a dilemma for employers about whether to permit employees to use electronic cigarettes at work.

What the law says

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco. They turn nicotine, flavour and other chemicals into a vapour that is inhaled by the user. The exhaled vapour can be seen and some products also have a light at the tip which illuminates when the user inhales.

Smoking in enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces in England has been prohibited since 1 July 2007 (under the Health Act 2006) in order to reduce the health risks associated with tobacco. In view of the fact that e-cigarettes do not use tobacco it is very unlikely that e-cigarettes are covered by the smoking ban in England, although other countries such as Canada, Denmark and Australia have taken the step to ban them.

Should employers therefore allow employees to use e-cigarettes in the workplace?

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive medical opinion on the safety of e-cigarettes to assist employers in making this decision. A 2008 review by the World Health Organisation found that there has been no rigorous, peer reviewed studies which conclude that the e-cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy. The British Medical Association (“BMA”) has advocated for stronger controls covering where e-cigarettes can be used in order to protect others from being exposed to e-cigarette vapours and to ensure their use does not lead people to believe it is acceptable to smoke or reinforce the “normalcy” of smoking behaviour. In light of these concerns the BMA believes the existing smoke free legislation in the UK should be extended to include vapour from e-cigarettes. Certainly, e-cigarettes are to be licensed as a medicine in the UK from 2016 in response to concerns about their lack of regulation.

Employers also need to be aware of their common law and statutory duties to protect the health and safety of their employees. Some employees may argue that their employers should allow them to use e-cigarettes in the workplace as a supportive measure to assist them in giving up smoking which should in turn lead to a healthier lifestyle. However, employers may be concerned that such devices could upset other employees, particularly if they are pregnant, trying to give up smoking or are concerned about the vapour from e-cigarettes.

A further consideration for employers is whether using e-cigarettes in the workplace fits with the professional image of the organisation and, if permitted, could be seen to “normalise” smoking. Although there is uncertainty about the harmfulness of the vapour, employees may, at the very least, find the vapour distracting.

Whilst using e-cigarettes in the workplace is not prohibited and employers do not have to ban the use of e-cigarettes, they equally do not have to agree to e-cigarettes being used in the workplace, and therefore must decide what approach best fits with the ethos of the organisation.

Practical steps for employers

If you do decide to prevent employees from using e-cigarettes in the workplace then we recommend taking the following steps:

• If you do not currently have a no-smoking policy or a drugs/alcohol policy then introduce such policies and include details of your approach to e-cigarettes in them.
• Alternatively, amend any existing no-smoking policy to include details of your approach to e-cigarettes such as a provision expressly banning the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, in company vehicles and at any client locations where your employees are working. A recent tribunal case, the first vaping case to be heard, clearly highlighted how important it is for employers to ensure that the use of electronic cigarettes or “vaping” is included in their no-smoking policy.
• Clearly explain in your policies that failing to adhere to them may result in disciplinary action.
• If you already provide a non-enclosed workplace area for conventional smokers then also consider providing a separate non-enclosed area for employees to use e-cigarettes.