ACAS suggests that employers plan ahead for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and consider their responses to the following issues:
- Planning absences – Ask employees to submit holiday requests for the Olympic period well in advance. Consider whether special guidelines are required above standard company policy: for example will leave be granted on a simple first come, first served basis, or will preference be given to those who have once-in-a-lifetime tickets to the Games?
- Flexible working – Employees who have more than a year’s service have a statutory right to request flexible working to fulfil certain caring responsibilities. While some employers allow flexible working for a wider range of reasons, generally this involves a permanent change to the employee’s contract. Employers may wish to consider offering flexible working for the period of the Games to allow individuals to take short periods of time off work to watch events. This may well help employers to maintain sufficient levels of manpower and reduce the risk of an increase in sickness absence, a phenomenon sometimes witnessed during other great sporting events such as football World Cup competitions.
- Deal with performance issues – ACAS suggests that employers address the issue of employees watching live events via the internet during work time. Employees may need to be reminded of the employer’s internet use policy, however there may also be scope to allow employees to watch certain events on a TV in the office.
- Understand the legal rights of volunteers – A huge number of volunteer “games makers” are being recruited to help marshall the Olympic events to be held in London and elsewhere. There is no legal right for employees to be given time off work to act as volunteers and no obligation to pay them for their time off – unless they take the time as part of their annual leave entitlement. However ACAS encourages employers to consider whether they will offer any form of “special leave”, whether paid or unpaid.
In considering all of these issues, ACAS rightly points out that there may well be a number of employees within the workplace who have no interest at all in sports and/or are fed up with the hoopla surrounding the London Olympics. It is important to bear in mind that this section of the workforce may become disaffected if they consider that special preference is being given to others who are interested in the Games.