Whether it's ensuring that policies and procedures are up-to-speed, or making sure that holiday requests are not unfairly disqualified, the best way to support your team during the Olympic and Paralympic Games is to be prepared.
Employers are likely to receive, if they haven't already, a high volume of holiday requests, both leading up to and during the Games.
It's important such requests are dealt with fairly and transparently.
If workable, a first come, first served policy could be implemented for the duration of the Games, with the temporary nature of these arrangements being stressed to staff. Alternatively a deadline could be imposed for all holiday requests for the Olympics' period to be received, with the decision on which of those to grant being made thereafter according to the needs of your organisation.
Whatever you decide, make this known to staff early.
Some employees may have been selected for volunteer positions at the Games. Employers should consider whether to allow volunteers to take paid, or unpaid, leave in order to carry out their role. You will also need to decide whether such employees will be given priority over non-volunteer applicants for holiday. Acas has suggested that employers may decide to match an employee's holiday leave with special leave given the potential that volunteering has to help develop employees' skills. Many volunteers will be agreeing to ten days work, with three days training prior to the Games.
In the interests of morale, employers could consider introducing flexible working patterns during the Games to allow staff to watch events and make up time at other points in the day. The feasibility of doing so will depend on business impact, and the potential impact on employees who already have flexible arrangements. Permitting employee-organised shift swaps, with authorisation, may be another possibility. Where any alteration of current working practices are implemented, employers should ensure that rest periods comply with working time regulations.
Acas has recommended that employers are flexible where possible, for instance by altering start and finish times and allowing longer lunch breaks so that staff can watch events during the working day. Of course, this will not be viable for all types of business.
Unauthorised and Sickness Absence
This is a good time to ensure that your organisation's policies providing for the management of unauthorised absence, as well as sickness absence, are up to date.
It is inevitable that some employers will have to deal with employees "pulling a sickie" or simply failing to show up after having holiday requests declined. Making sure that clear guidance exists and that those required to enforce the policies, as well as those potentially affected by them, are fully informed will ensure that you don't get off to a false start, reducing the potential for employment tribunal claims. At the very least, it will be wise to issue a gentle reminder that non-genuine sickness absence will lead to disciplinary action.
Watching Events at Work
Employers may wish to consider showing events on the premises. If so, firstly ensure that your organisation has a TV licence which allows this. Ground rules should also be set as to appropriate behaviour, acceptable dress and so on.
Employees should be made aware that workplace "banter" which crosses the (finish) line and becomes discriminatory - perhaps an ill-advised comment on the beach volleyball or vocalising a lack of support for a country which veers towards racism - will not be tolerated.
As events are likely to be widely available on the internet, it would be prudent to carry out a review of IT policies and settings. Employees should be made fully aware of what is or is not permissible in relation to viewing the Games in the workplace and the disciplinary consequences of any breach of its policies in this regard.
For those who will be watching events on breaks, or before shifts, it may be sensible to review your organisation's alcohol policy. If the stance on consumption of alcohol before or during work is unclear this could lead to problems in defending disciplinary action taken against a tipsy employee.
Finally, for employers in London, increased traffic will have to be added to the raft of issues to consider. Depending on the place of work, the extra crowding is likely to lead to difficulty in getting to, or home from, work. Transport for London has published guidance on planning for travel disruption on its website which can be accessed by clicking here.
Flexible working patterns may be helpful in this regard, or employers may wish to consider allowing staff to work from home. If so, it will be important to ensure that a comprehensive home working policy deals with matters such as: applications for home working, health and safety, IT and data protection, and ways of monitoring work. If flexible/home working is not viable, staff should be advised that they are expected to work their normal hours and to plan their journeys to work to accommodate any transport delays.
Employers should ensure that policies are up to date in terms of the approach to be taken to employees who are late for work, and in particular where this is due to circumstances beyond their control.
Reviewing your policies, practices and procedures is the first step to ensure you are on your marks. Refresher training for line managers on handling requests for time off or flexible working, and dealing with grievances and disciplinary action will then help you get set. So, when the Olympic flame is lit on 27 July 2012, you and your team will be all ready to go!
If you have any other questions, or require assistance in preparing policies, please get in touch with your usual contact at MMS or:
Partner and Head of Department
0131 228 7134
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This briefing is written as a general guide only. It is not intended to contain definitive legal advice which should be sought as appropriate in relation to any particular matter.
MMS is not an official licensee or sponsor of the London Olympics or the London 2012 Organising Committee and, in providing general guidance in relation to certain practical legal issues related to the London Olympics, it is in no way holding itself out as having any commercial or other official relationship with these or any other Olympic organisation.