Dear Auntie

With only one year to go to the London Olympic Games, we need to start planning and getting in shape! The summer holidays always cause a headache for us in the HR team, but we are expecting August 2012 to be even more challenging when the Olympic Games come to London.

We are expecting increased demand for annual leave – which is more problematic in respect of those staff who will be volunteers at the Olympics – and we are particularly worried about how our staff, clients and customer are going to reach us given the predicted congestion in the city.

Mr Ready Steady

Dear Ready

With some 7.7 million spectators and over 40,000 athletes and members of the press expected to descend on London during the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer, you are absolutely right to start planning now!

Early planning will allow you to capitalise on the potential commercial advantages as well as boosting internal morale and goodwill. London is likely to be very busy during the Games; you will need to be creative and flexible to ensure that staff can still carry out their duties and your business isn’t adversely affected.

Policy review
A good starting point is to review the policies you have in place:

  • If you have a Business Continuity Plan, review this and consider building upon it to deal with possible Olympic disruptions.
  • Review your policies and contracts of employment, particularly the clauses relating to hours and place of work – are they sufficiently flexible to allow for change?

Changing working patterns
Small changes to working patterns can prevent big headaches for HR. Consider the following options:

  • Temporary flexible working patterns so that staff can start early/ late in order to watch or attend key events;
  • Consider remote working which may be a solution to congestion problems and travel delays.  Communicate clear messages that remote workers are still expected to complete a full day’s work!

This could also be a good opportunity to ‘trial run’ changes to working patterns before you consider more permanent changes.

Managing demand for annual leave

  • Firstly, form a realistic plan of your minimum staffing requirements during the Games.
  • Secondly consider how you will allocate leave if you have more requests than you are able to grant: What does your Holiday Policy say? If possible follow it or consider allocating on a first come, first served basis or from a ballot. Tell staff at an early stage how you intend to deal with applications for leave.
  • Will employees be required to use their annual leave if they have been selected as volunteers? Some employers have decided to allow exceptional leave for volunteers at the Olympics, but if you do the same, will it be paid leave? If you do allow exceptional leave, communicate the policy clearly, ensure consistent treatment amongst applicants and ensure that the policy is stated to apply for volunteers at the 2012 Olympics only.

Predicting and preventing problems

Unauthorised absence

  • Communicate your policies in advance and consider sending an email reminder of your absence and disciplinary policies.
  • If you do decide to invoke your disciplinary policy make sure you follow this consistently.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions!

Internet use

  • Staff may want to watch live events via the internet.  Does this breach your I.T. policy? Will you relax your internet use policies? Again, be consistent.
  • Surges in internet and phone networks will impose additional stresses on your local networks- can your systems cope with this? Have a back up plan in place just in case your systems crash.

Beware discrimination and harassment claims

  • Beware giving (or being seen to give) Team GB supporters priority over non-Team GB supporters.
  • Have you provided your employees with training on equal opportunities and harassment recently? This might be a good time to make sure staff are up to date.

In summary…

  • Establish policies and communicate these well in advance.
  • Whether you choose to relax some of your rules or enforce them as normal, ensure that your approach is consistent.
  • Plan well and earn some easy employee relations points and save management time!

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