The London Olympics - a headache for employers?

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are due to commence on 26 July and last for six weeks. During this time it is anticipated that there is likely to be a considerable impact on businesses in a number of ways including in terms of how staff are managed.

Considerations for employers during and running up to the Games are:

1. An increased level of demand to take holiday from employees wishing to watch the games at home or who have bought tickets.

2. How a constant approach to such holiday requests can be achieved and whether the normal holiday procedures will be utilised (in which case it may be appropriate to remind employees of such procedures) or whether new procedures are to be put in place (in which case these should be brought to employees` attention in good time before the Games).

3. Increased "Olympic sickies" where employees have booked tickets but not had holiday authorised or where employees wish to watch the Games at home. Employees should be reminded of absence notification procedures and warned that unauthorised absence or suspected abuse of such procedure may result in disciplinary action.

4. Whether employees who have been granted volunteer positions will be required to book holiday or whether they will be allowed to take paid or unpaid leave instead of holiday.

It would be advisable for employers to consider implementing a policy stating how such absence will be dealt with (e.g. holiday/paid or unpaid leave) for both volunteers and non-volunteers and reserving the employer`s right to refuse such requests. It would also be advisable for such policy to refer to requests from employees to leave early to watch the Games and how these will be dealt with. Care should be taken if allowing such requests as this could cause issues with other employees who are not interested in watching the Games but would like equivalent time off.

Employees should also be informed of the employer`s position in relation to watching or listening to the Games at work which may cause disruption to computer systems if a lot of people try to view through the internet. This will obviously also have a detrimental effect on productivity. If not permissible then reference should be made to potential disciplinary action in the event that employees are found to be watching or listening to the Games at work.

In order to try and minimise the above issues employers may wish to consider having a communal radio or television for employees to use for specific events with the provision that time is made up elsewhere in the working day to avoid issues with staff who are not interested in the Games.

Implementing such a policy will ensure that there is continuity in treatment of all employees and will hopefully make the employer's position clear to all. 

Posted on: 11/04/2012

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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