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Olympic Games: Employer guidance

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As we look forward to the long hot summer months, the excitement is already starting to build around the 2012 Olympics. For many, it’s an inspiring, once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the event in their home country. Over six million tickets have been sold with a further 700,000 still to be distributed and 70,000 volunteers set to take part. 

With this huge level of interest, the chances are that you will have staff attending the games or wanting to watch key events on TV. This means that while staff morale may be high, you are likely to face issues such as staff absence, transport disruption, staff shortages and revision to current policies. 

To help prepare your business for the Olympics, here are the key areas you need to focus on: 

Policy

Review and update company policies and procedures including absence and sickness, flexible working, travel, drugs and alcohol misuse. You will need to consider the likely impact on demand for products and services at the time of the Games and any additional requests for parental or holiday leave. The policy should be clear to avoid misunderstandings and unfairness.

Attendance

Allocate holidays in a just way and ensure your business is not left short staffed. Depending on the size of the organisation, you may have to operate a “first come first served” policy for annual leave, or allow unpaid leave for certain events. Write to staff to explain your policy and the need for cover during this time, as this will help manage expectations. You should also ensure that work handovers are completed so colleagues can pick up any work during periods of leave. 

Travel disruption 

In the summer there will be an increase in the volume of people commuting in and out of London, and security is likely to be tighter. It is worth remembering that you are not automatically entitled to pay employees if they are unable to get to work because of travel disruption so it might be worth re-considering travel, flexible working and meeting plans around this time. Consider video conferencing, conference calls or other means of technological communication, or you may want to hold face-to-face meetings outside of London altogether.

Flexible working

Consider a short-term measure to implement a flexible working policy for the duration of the games, or allow people to swap shifts, if applicable. You should also discuss with staff in advance of the games, travel arrangements, alternative routes and travel to work. If temporary flexible working is introduced it should be formalised so that staff and managers are aware of their responsibilities during this period. 

Work from home

Depending on whether it is practical for your business, you could potentially allow people to work from home on the days that they wish to watch particular events. However, it is crucial that employees have the right equipment and technology needed to carry out their roles remotely. You may want to provide staff with a computer so that data security is protected and virus threats are reduced. If your staff will be working on confidential work make sure they are aware that any visitors to their house are not to have access to sensitive material. 

Installing a TV or radio

Think about installing a TV or Radio in the staffroom, or let employees watch internet coverage during breaks or at agreed times. You should make sure your IT policy covers this. The Olympic Games might not interest everyone so you will need to make sure employees who do not wish to participate do not need to, and are treated fairly. 

Unauthorised absence

Some employees may just call in sick for a particular event to get the day off. This can cause problems, especially at short notice and if you are already operating with fewer staff. To help guard against this, ensure you have a clear, well-publicised absence policy in place and remind employees that any unauthorised absences will be seen as a misconduct issue and dealt with under disciplinary procedures. It may be helpful to outline the circumstances in which absence will be considered “unauthorised”, for example where an employee fails to follow the normal absence reporting procedure, or where the employer has reasonable grounds for believing that the absence is not genuine or justified.

Hopefully by following these tips, and having the correct procedures and policies in place, you will be able to enjoy the thrill of the Olympic Games with your staff, whilst still running your business efficiently. If managed properly, the Olympics could provide a much needed morale boost to us all at a time when the economic climate threatens drive and motivation.

Elaine Burns is an HR assistant at Gravitate HR.

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