I have already received some holiday requests in relation to the 2012 Olympic Games, even though they are over a year away. Is it too early to start thinking about the Olympics already?

Any employer could be forgiven for not considering a holiday policy for the 2012 Olympic Games just yet, after all it is around 18 months away (not that the Olympic countdown clock would help tell you that). However, the application window for tickets for the Games has opened and is due to close on 26 April 2011, with notifications of all applications due to be sent to applicants by 24 June 2011. Employers should therefore be getting into shape now for the 2012 Olympics.

Golden Solutions

An annual leave policy that’s just the ticket
Due to the ballot method adopted for ticket allocation, applicants have to commit to purchasing their tickets at the application stage in the event they are successful. As a result, employees will soon be, if not already, making annual leave requests for the days the events they want to see are taking place.

You should communicate your “Olympic Games policy” to all staff now to prevent disruption next summer.

You can request that all employees wishing to apply for tickets notify you of the dates they will require annual leave before they apply. This will allow you to collate all holiday requests for the Games and decide which requests can be granted. This way absence levels will be known in advance and the decrease in productivity can be managed.

In the interests of fairness, holiday requests should not be on a first come first served basis but a deadline should be given for all holiday requests to be made.

A quick response to these requests will still allow your employees to apply for tickets prior to the application deadline on 26 April 2011 whilst stopping those who aren’t granted holiday from applying. In the interest of employee relations, any caps on the number of employees allowed on holiday at once could be relaxed in order to grant as many annual leave requests as possible. 

Of course some employees may not be successful in their applications for tickets and those unlucky few can be given the choice of whether they still wish to take their annual leave or not.

Flexible working
Another option for employers is to introduce flexible working patterns during the Games so that staff can watch events live and catch up on work before or after the normal working day. However, make sure this doesn’t detrimentally affect pre-arranged flexible working patterns agreed under the statutory procedures, for example with employees with childcare responsibilities.

Home working
During the two weeks the Games are held traffic throughout London will be at unprecedented levels and as access to the centre of London is likely to be (more) difficult. Employers in London might therefore wish to allow staff to work remotely from home. If so, make sure you have a well drafted home working policy which deals with matters such as applications process for home working, health and safety, IT, data security, and monitoring work done.

Unauthorised absences which aren’t a Bolt out of the blue
One of the biggest problems caused by sporting events is unauthorised staff absence. Employers should not jump to conclusions simply because a male employee has not turned up for work on the day of the women’s beach volleyball tournament. Ensure that any absence / disciplinary procedures are followed, employees are dealt with fairly and that suitable warnings are given. Disciplinary offences committed during the Olympic Games should be treated the same as similar disciplinary offences committed at any other time.

To help mitigate any unauthorised absences further, employers could set up screens around the around its offices to allow staff to watch Boris Johnson take centre stage once again so elegantly (and of course all the events too).

A positive mental attitude 

Taking a slightly more informal approach to the upcoming Games could benefit all parties, earn you some easy employee relations points and end up saving management time which would otherwise be wasted during a disciplinary process. This should help turn a potential mad-dash finish into a gentle, and most importantly undisruptive,  canter across the line.

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