On your marks, get set, go! Get ready for the Olympics
People Newsletter (Spring/Summer 2012)
- Unfair dismissal qualifying period
- On your marks, get set, go! Get ready for the Olympics
- The price of injured feelings
- Franchising TUPE obligations?
- Seldon - the pensions issues
- Making employee ownership mainstream
There may be fewer than 70 days left to the 2012 Olympic Games, which hops, skips and jumps off on 27 July, but there is still plenty of time to implement a plan to prepare your business and minimise the impact of challenges that may arise prior to and during the Games. We address the main issues that are likely to arise.
- Holiday requests – employment contracts, your annual leave policy and the Working Time Regulations will provide guidance on holiday entitlement and notification requirements. However, be prepared for increased requests for time off during the Games and think carefully how to respond if several employees ask for the same day off. A request for time off does not mean an employee is automatically entitled to that time off. You can turn down requests but, if you do so, ensure that you justify your decision with fair reasons. You could communicate to employees a date by which all requests for holiday during the Games must be submitted. If you receive increased holiday requests, consider dealing with requests on a first come, first served basis or by way of a lottery once all requests have been submitted.
- Volunteers – "Games Makers", or volunteers, are required to undertake ten days volunteering during the Games and attend at least three days training prior to the Games. Employees do not have a legal right to take time off to volunteer. You can therefore choose whether to give paid or unpaid time off, allow volunteers to take holiday, grant special leave or require employees to make up the time used for volunteering at a later date.
- Internet usage – remind employees of your policy on internet usage and make it clear that excessively watching the Games during working hours via their computer may constitute misconduct. Treat any form of excessive internet usage consistently. Consider whether to allow staff to watch popular Olympics events on a communal TV or allow internet usage to watch events during certain times.
- Absence – you may experience higher than normal levels of absences (including non-genuine sickness absence) during the Games as people who have been refused a day off choose to take unauthorised time off or take a "sickie". Avoid assuming that all sickness absence during the Games is not genuine and deal with all sickness absences in accordance with your usual procedures. Ensure that your disciplinary and absence procedures confirm that any unauthorised absence constitutes misconduct and give advance warning to employees that absences without a good reason/evidence will be treated as misconduct. Closely monitoring sickness absence during the Games, using return to work interviews to monitor reasons for absence or allowing employees to watch the Games during working hours within permitted limits, will help discourage absenteeism.
- Flexible/remote working – during the Games, employees are likely to experience travel disruption to their daily commute. Ask employees to consider alternative routes to and from work and ensure that there are clear communication channels to let you know if they are struggling to get to work. Consider implementing a policy of flexible working as a short-term measure during the Games, such as working from home or other office locations, altering working hours or staggering start times to avoid travel at peak times. Check contracts of employment to ensure they permit changes to an employee's work location or working hours for a temporary period and make any such changes with the employee's agreement. If home-working is an option, consider health and safety, data protection and business confidentiality issues.
- Policies - ensure that you check your existing policies (disciplinary, sickness absence, annual leave and flexible working). If they do not cover the above issues such as competing requests for time off, watching the Games during working hours and unauthorised absence, develop a short term policy to deal with such issues and communicate this to employees.
When considering and addressing the above issues, ensure that you treat all employees consistently and fairly. If you adhere to your policies and apply them consistently across the workforce, you can avoid allegations of unfair or discriminatory treatment and, where possible, provide reasons to justify differences in treatment when refusing requests for time off or taking disciplinary action.