March 1st, 2012
Courtesy of Thames Valley Business Magazine February 2012
The Olympic and Paralympic Games will run for 6 weeks in total and there will be 320,000 visitors and 15,000 athletes coming to the United Kingdom. There will be an impact on Employers’ businesses and the best way to deal with this is to accept it, focus on finding solutions and actively put them in place. Employers should welcome the Games and if prepared the benefits reaped could be plentiful.
During the Games there will be significant pressure on transport in and around London. Your staff may be late into work or in some cases may not be able to get into work. Employees only have to take reasonable steps to find other ways of getting into work. It is important Employers realise this and put in place strategies in order to cope. Make it clear if employees are expected to call into work if they are delayed. Perhaps Employers should consider letting their employees work from home. To do this Employers will need to make it clear to their employees what is expected from them; are they expected to be available during normal working hours? Or can they do flexible working? If this is a one off make sure your employees know this. Other options which Employers may wish to consider are longer lunch hours, time off to watch main events provided they make up the time, alternative hours and swap shifts. Also check employment contracts, if you are going to alter working hours; do you need your employee’s consent?
High demand for holidays will mean some people will miss out. Employers will need to balance such requests with the needs of their business and it is important to be fair and consistent throughout. As an Employer you have the right to refuse leave on the grounds of meeting your business needs. You may wish to put in place a special policy which deals with holiday requests during this period, will it be first come first served, or will it be by ballot? And what about those who have tickets? You cannot be seen to favour those who want time off for reasons associated with the Games over those who do not support it or want time off for other reasons. These are issues Employers need to consider now and put in place steps to deal with this. The earlier Employers inform your employees then the less disgruntled they will be. There are 70,000 volunteers during the Games. If you have staff volunteering, will you let them take it as exceptional leave or will it be unpaid? If you let them take it as exceptional leave, consider how this would be viewed by other employees.
Absences increase during high profile events. If people call in sick on key days will you expect them to provide medical evidence? Employers should consider sending reminders to staff over what is expected of them and warning that if an employee abuses their position and takes an “absence”, then they may face disciplinary procedures. However there will be genuine absences so be sure not to discriminate against them.
Employers should actively encourage the Games and join in with the spirit of the Games. The world’s eyes will be on London and Employers should take advantage of this goodwill. Your employees will be much more receptive and productive if their firm recognises the importance of the Games. To minimise absences Employers should consider putting up televisions and screening events thus ensuring its employees do not miss out. You may also wish to consider offering staff incentives or take on temps to minimise the disruption to businesses.
Employers must remember that not everyone will be following the Games and that not everyone will be supporting Team GB. With this in mind Employers should take care to ensure that they do not inadvertently discriminate against those who support other nations. Employers are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees unless they take reasonable steps to prevent such unlawful acts occurring.
The Games could be a prime marketing opportunity for firms nationwide. By reacting positively to the Games and getting involved with the spirit of the Games morale will increase among employees. You may wish to consider holding events throughout the Olympic period, for example departmental competitions. Some events are also free to attend so you may wish to have a firm day out. However care should be taken to ensure no IP rights are infringed or ambush marketing occurs. Employers should not market such events using the words “London 2012 Olympic Games” or use words which could suggest an association with the Games. If you do hold firm events remember to consider alcohol issues.
Also you should also ensure you have a bribery policy in place which will cover situations which may arise, for example, what if a client offers you tickets or vice versa.
As you will realise there are many issues that need to be considered. There is not long to go and preparation is key. Those Employers who are prepared will be the ones who prosper the most from the Games. It is a moment in the United Kingdom’s history that will not be forgotten, Employers should remember this and prepare, prepare, prepare – just like the athletes. Please contact us if you would like us to provide a policy or help craft one for your business.
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