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Avoiding a ruck during the Six Nations

Adrian Lewis

HR Managers may not care too much about rugby, but the this year’s Six Nations tournament will bring HR challenges. Adrian Lewis, absence management expert and Director of HR software company Activ Absence gives his top tips to help HR Managers stay in control as the Six Nations Tournament begins.

The Six Nations challenge sees the UK’s regions joined by Italy and France to compete for the RBS Six Nations trophy. The first match of the tournament took place on Saturday as Scotland beat Ireland at the BT Murrayfield stadium. Some of the issues HR Managers can expect to see during the tournament include:

Diversity, racism and equality
As always, strength of feeling may be running high and extend off the pitch into banter between different fans. Rugby is a multi-cultural sport with a very good track record for diversity on the field, and in South Africa the sport helped reunite a divided Nation. Sadly last year saw some on-pitch racist taunting. It’s important for HR to make sure what happens on-pitch, stays on-pitch and doesn’t descend into all-out war in the workplace between opposing fans.

Hangovers, sickness absence and presenteeism
In most home nations a big drinking culture accompanies international games. Thankfully, none of the fixtures are midweek, but there are still likely to be consequences. A Sunday match usually means an increase in ‘Sickie Mondays’ as people recover from a weekend of over-indulgence. Similarly, Saturday games often see workers trying to sneak off early to travel to the game.

Reinforce expected behaviour ahead of time
Given the intense competition between nations, it’s important to remind people about behaviour ahead of the first match. Make it clear that racism, sexism and homophobic language and behaviour are not acceptable in the workplace. National pride cannot be allowed to create conflict in the workplace.

Don’t forget about presenteeism
It may seem commendable that people come into work despite the worst hangover – however, if they are in work but not capable of working, then they are just impacting on productivity. If someone is hungover and still clearly inebriated, having them in to make up the numbers is not worth the risk. Decide clearly what your policies regarding alcohol and hangovers should be and make sure the policy is enforced.

Make sure you have a clear absence management plan
HR should not be surprised if absence increases during the tournament, however being prepared for it will reduce the impact. HR Managers will benefit by keeping an eye on key sporting fixtures for their region, Six Nations fixture dates are here. Ahead of the tournament, remind staff on your policy on sickness absence.

Educate your staff
Staff often do not realise that short term absence has a big impact on the company’s bottom line and are more disruptive to the business than long term sickness. You could subtly discourage sickies by asking staff if they want to book Friday or Monday off ahead of the weekend fixtures (so they know their excuses are not likely to work!)

Use return-to-work forms and interviews
Sporting sickies almost always have repeat offenders – it’s usually the same people swinging the lead. However, how can managers challenge sickies if they don’t have data? Even if you don’t have an absence management system, you can still use self-certification forms and conduct return to work interviews to keep an accurate history of absence. Recognising patterns and trends gives managers the tools they need to tackle the problem.

Kick out staff planning spreadsheets
Using spreadsheets for staff planning are ineffective for managing people. They are prone to error and pc crashes and offer zero in the way of reporting and analysis. Maintaining spreadsheets creates a dependency on HR for information as line managers don’t often have access to staff absence information. Absence management systems are designed for the job – employees self-service leave requests, the system calculates leave allowances and line managers can deal with most issues leaving HR free to do the job they trained for. We hope you’ve found these six tips useful – and no matter who you are rooting for this Six Nations, we hope that HR emerges as the winner!

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