News & Views

Olympic guidance for employers

BY Heather Kemmett
Employment law
BG Purple

Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last few months, you cannot fail to have noticed that one of the biggest events of the sporting calendar is arriving on our doorstop this summer.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are hurtling towards us at a Usain Bolt-esque speed and employers should be taking the time now to ensure they minimise disruption to their business this summer. We’ll be looking at three pressing issues for employers to consider.

First off the bat on the gold podium is the issue of time off. Employees may need time off for a variety of reasons; some may want to take leave to attend events, others may want to volunteer to work at the Games. The volunteer application system is now closed and those who have jumped the hurdles will be offered roles in the coming months. Make a note of those employees who applied and follow their applications so you don’t have to jog your memory come July. Each volunteer will spend a minimum of 10 days working at Olympic or Paralympic events and will be required to attend three training sessions prior to this.

Legally, employees are not entitled to time off to volunteer at or attend the Games. Employees can take annual leave to cover time off or employers may wish to permit “special” unpaid leave for employees. For those who are volunteering, employers may wish to consider whether this activity complies with their organisation’s CSR programme and may wish to provide paid leave for days spent volunteering.

Sprinting into silver position is the issue of flexible working during the games. Some staff may request that their hours are temporarily altered to allow them to attend, volunteer at or watch the games. Employers will need to consider what arrangements are currently in place for flexible working and whether these will need to be amended. Equally, employers should consider what their position is on staff members watching televised events at work. For example, employers may permit employees to have access to a television while at work to watch key events.

Bringing up the rear in bronze position is the perennial sporting event problem of performance failings due to overly enthusiastic post-event celebrations. Employers should make it clear that absence policies should not be abused and that below-par performance because of marathon festivities is not acceptable.

A word of caution, however. Care should be taken that people who have no interest in sport do not stick the oar in and complain about special treatment. You certainly will not want staff to throw in the towel over what should be a fun and enjoyable time for all.

For further guidance on employer issues during the Games, contact your legal manager or go to http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3392.

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