Employers should not underestimate the impact the Games will have on their business

July 27, 2011

This article was written for and featured on Fresh Business Thinking

Employers should not underestimate the impact the Games will have on their business but those who plan well will earn easy employee relations points and save management time otherwise spent in disciplinary meetings or even employment tribunals!

What’s the rush?

  1. London will be transformed next summer; employers will need to be creative and flexible to ensure that staff can still carry out their duties and business is not adversely affected. Advanced planning is key.

Ready, steady…plan!

  1. Employers should take this opportunity to review their policies and consider whether these adequately served their needs during previous large-scale sporting events, such as the football World Cup in 2010.
  2. Those with a Business Continuity Plan in place should review this and consider building upon it to deal with possible Olympic disruption, such as breaches of security, failures of I.T. networks or a severe breakdown in the transport system.

Absenteeism

  1. Most business will experience higher levels of absenteeism are common during large scale sporting events.
  2. Employers should communicate their policies in advance and consider sending a reminder of their absence and disciplinary policies closer to the Games.
  3. Employers who decide to invoke their policies should ensure that they do so consistently and that they don’t jump to conclusions; genuine absences will still occur during the Games!

Managing leave

  1. Demand for annual leave is likely to be high next summer. Forming a realistic plan now of minimum staffing requirements during the Games will avoid short staffing problems.
  2. How will leave be allocated? A well drafted holiday policy should deal with scenarios where more leave has been requested than can be granted.
  3. Employers should tell staff at an early stage how they intend to deal with applications for leave as this will avoid last minute disappointment.

Volunteers

  1. Allowing staff to volunteer during the Games can boost goodwill, develop staff skills and can also be a good PR exercise for employers.  However, managing such leave (which could be for over two weeks) requires forward planning. 
  2. Some employers have decided to allow exceptional leave for volunteers at the Olympics; those who grant exceptional leave will need to communicate their policy clearly, ensure consistent treatment amongst applicants and ensure that the policy is stated to apply for volunteers at the 2012 Olympics only.

Changes to working patterns

  1. Remote working may be a solution to congestion problems and travel delays; allowing employees to work from home or from an office outside London will save time and stress.  Employers introducing remote working will need to ensure they have adequate technology and lines of communication in place to ensure staff can work effectively when away from the office. 
  2. Clear messages should be communicated to remote workers and those permitted to work flexibly that they are still expected to complete a full day's work!
  3. The Games could also be a good opportunity to ‘trial run’ changes to working patterns before employers consider making more permanent changes. With flexible working high on the government’s agenda, employers are likely to be asked to consider more flexible and remote working applications in the future.

Avoiding claims

  1. With a multi national events and workforce employers should beware giving (or being seen to give) Team GB supporters priority over non-Team GB supporters.
  2. Employers should check that their employees have received training on equal opportunities and harassment.

Internet use

  1. Staff may want to watch live events via the internet.  Allowing this may discourage ‘sickies’ and boost good will but employers will need to check that their IT systems can cope with this.
  2. An alternative may be to show live events on a large screen in the office.

In summary…

  1. Early planning is essential.
  2. Establish clear policies and communicate these in advance these will avoid reactive responses to difficult situations.
  3. Whether employers choose to relax some of their rules or enforce them as normal during the Games, they should ensure that their approach is consistent.

 

Laura Evans is an employment lawyer at Fox Williams LLP and can be contacted for more information about this article at levans@foxwilliams.com


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