By Ben Stepney, Solicitor in Employment. Article first published in Kent Business on 5 July 2012.
The London 2012 Olympic Games are fast approaching.
With this in mind employers will need to consider how the Games could impact upon their business, particularly in relation to employment issues.
Many employees will see the Olympics as a once in a lifetime event that, here in Kent, is right on our doorstep. Employers will need to manage the expectations of employees who may want to follow the Games as closely as possible and make it clear what is permitted at work.
The list below identifies some of the issues that employers will need to consider and steps that should be taken to prepare for the Olympics.
- Have an up to date and clear IT policy. As many employees have access to the internet at work, it is easy to follow the Olympics at work. An IT policy should specify the rules which employees are subject to when using the internet at work. This should address whether non-work use of the internet is permitted at all, outside of working hours only or within certain limits.
- Deal with last minute holiday requests in the normal way. Olympics tickets are still being released in various tranches. Employees who get last minute tickets may need to book annual leave. Employers should deal with such applications in the normal way, usually on a first come first served basis. Remember that employers do not have to accept holiday requests, especially if to do so would leave the business understaffed. Reminding employees now of minimum staffing requirements will help manage expectations.
- Be flexible. If a number of employees want to follow a certain event, consider allowing them to make up the lost time later that day.
- Olympic volunteers. Employees who are volunteering may need time off and be reluctant to use up their holiday allowance. Consider allowing them to take unpaid leave.
- Addressing unauthorised sick leave. Taking sick leave when fit for work is a disciplinary offence and a disciplinary policy should state this. Employers may choose to hold a return to work interview if they have doubts about the authenticity of the reasons given for absence.
- Be clear that this is a one off event. Employers who choose to grant special privileges to employees for the Olympics must make it clear that this is a one off, or they risk setting a precedent for future major sporting events.
As always, there is a balance to be met between fostering good employment relations and ensuring that the business is able to function as normal during the Olympics. Taking the above steps will help manage expectations and communicate what is, and is not, permitted during the Olympics.