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Employers: Begin to prepare for the Olympics now

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With less than a year to go to the start of the 2012 Olympic Games there has already been a set of guidelines issued by ACAS to help employers prepare for this major sporting event.

The guidance is designed to try and minimise absenteeism and at the same time use this great opportunity to boost employee and customer relationships.

This may all sound like common sense, but to avoid problems over time off and productivity it’s better to plan ahead and to have clear policies and procedures in place, so that everyone’s expectations are considered and balanced, especially those who have managed to get tickets for the Games. 

In addition to planning events that might include all staff and/or customers, our recommendations include the following:

Communication

Start talking early to employees about managing leave and working hours. Some employees may be lucky enough to have tickets, some may have volunteered to help, others may hope to see some TV coverage and others may have no interest whatsoever. 

Fairness

Respond fairly to requests for time off. Those who know they have tickets should be encouraged to book their holiday as soon as they know dates to ensure their holiday requests can be accommodated. Remember that some members of staff may get fed up with the fuss and won’t want to see any favouritism shown to those with sporting interests. 

Flexibility

Consider whether there is a possibility to alter starting and finishing times, allow lunch breaks to be taken at different times or increase breaks so that staff can take time to watch key events during the working day. 

Clarity

Ensure your expectations are crystal clear. Spell out what you expect in relation to employees’ attendance, performance and flexibility and give transparent and honest reasons for cover and any temporary changes in working practices that you require. Remember that volunteers will have rights too.

All major international sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup can cause problems of absenteeism and performance for employers. This is not only caused by attendance and viewing but can also be due to the after effects of the follow up celebrations. 

Our hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games is a fantastic opportunity for the UK but employers need to be aware of the significant impact that 17 sporting days could have on their business productivity.  

Start planning now!

Gill Brown is head of the employment law team at Phillips.

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