With under 50 days to go, the count-down and planning for the London Olympic and Paralympics Games 2012 (the “Games”) has well and truly commenced! If you haven’t already considered implementing Games-related policies now is the time to do so.

Why prepare an Olympics policy?

Most of the potentially tricky issues faced by employers in the run up to and during the Games identified below and in previous HR Law articles (http://www.hrlaw.co.uk/site/auntieadvice/olympic_games_employment_issues) can be addressed and avoided by creating a clear ‘Olympic’ policy and applying it consistently.

A well drafted Olympic policy will ease the administrative burden on HR and limit the legal risks for the business.

Issues to address in your Olympic Policy

1) Policy aims

Clearly set out the aims of the policy, which might include enabling staff to enjoy the Games whilst ensuring that the business continues to operate successfully.

2) Scope and duration

A number of employers have expressed concern that allowing staff to work flexibly, to watch sport ‘live’ on their computers or to work from home during the Games will increase the expectation of such working patterns and benefits being granted on a permanent basis in the future.

Avoid creating precedents by making clear that changes are being introduced during the exceptional circumstances of the Games only and that existing policies and practices will continue to apply after the Games.

3) Leave

Your policy should clearly set out how leave will be allocated e.g. on a first come, first served basis or with priority given to those who have been selected as volunteers during the Games.

You might also specify who will be responsible for deciding on minimum staffing levels e.g. the heads of each department or a central HR function who can provide oversight on staffing levels across the business.

If notice requirements for requesting leave will depart from your usual Holiday Policy during the Games, clearly set out the temporary notice requirement e.g. you may wish staff to give longer periods of notice in advance of their proposed leave dates. Clearly establish time-frames and deadlines in your policy.

4) Attendance and lateness

Your policy should make clear that if staff have not booked and been granted leave they will be expected to attend work as normal and, if they do not, their absence will be investigated and disciplinary action may be taken if the leave is deemed to be unauthorised.

Reiterate that unless staff are on leave they will be expected to attend work on time, as normal and it is each individual’s responsibility to research and plan their journey into work in order to deal with inevitable travel disruption. If staff cannot make it into the office state whether this will be regarded as holiday or unpaid leave.

5) Flexible working

Establish the types of request for flexible working the business will consider during the Games, such as varying working hours/ shifts/ days.

Establish how, by when and to whom requests for flexible working should be made e.g. will staff need to explain why they want to work flexible and how this will affect the business?

Avoid showing, or being seen to show, favouritism in granting requests for flexible working in order to limit the risks of costly discrimination claims. Such difficulties can be avoided by applying criteria for dealing with applications for flexible working consistently and by reference to the needs of the business. Alternatively if all staff are permitted to work flexibly these problems are avoided entirely!

6) Working from home

Clearly establish which roles are suitable for flexible working. Some roles, for example, that of receptionist, simply cannot be carried out from a remote location.

Establish who is responsible for ensuring the requisite technology is in place.

Ensure that the relevant Health and safety checks are carried out before the period of working form home commences.

7) Screening events at work

If employees will be allowed to screen live events via the internet or listen to the radio at work you should establish when they are permitted to do this (all day? Just during lunchtime?).

Consider taking steps to prevent your IT system crashing if staff are streaming in events to their desktops. This might include switching off their ability to do this temporarily.

Above all ensure that your Olympic policy is applied consistently to all staff- you may need to train your managers before the policy is rolled out.

By following these Top Tips employees and employers should all be able to enjoy a stress-free Games!

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