In case it had skipped your attention the London 2012 Olympic Games will be held between 27 July 2012 and 12 August 2012. Many employers will already have made preparations in advance, but those that haven’t need to consider how to minimise potential disruption, reduce the risk of unauthorised absence, and manage staff expectations to ensure business runs smoothly, whilst getting the best from their staff, during this period.
ACAS has produced guidance for employers which urges them to be as flexible as possible with workers and to make sure expectations on attendance and performance are communicated as soon as possible.
For example, employers may encounter difficulties with competing requests for annual leave. This should be dealt with in line with the employer’s holiday policy, where there is one in place. If there is no relevant policy or it does not deal with competing requests for annual leave, a simple approach is to introduce a temporary ‘first come, first served’ policy for booking leave or a lottery once all requests have been submitted. Any new policy such as this would have to be communicated to employees in advance. Whatever policy an employer adopts, it must apply it fairly and consistently to everyone.
An employer can refuse holiday requests during a particular period if, for example, the business or organisation will be under pressure. Many employers are already stretched in August because of school holidays and may not be able to accommodate their staff taking extra days to watch the heats of the 100 metres!
The Olympics may give rise to a range of performance issues that employers will have to deal with, particularly with regard to attendance and internet usage.
Given that there is potential for the games to lead to increased unauthorised absence, employers may wish to put specific rules and procedures in place during the games period. For example, employees could be required to notify their absence (for whatever cause) to a specific person to make them aware that the employer is closely monitoring attendance during the period. This approach, coupled with advance warning to employees that unauthorised absences without good reason and sickness absences that are not genuine will be dealt with under the employer’s disciplinary procedure, should help discourage absenteeism.
To limit liability for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal claims, where employees are suspected of taking unauthorised absence, employers should ensure that they carry out a proper investigation, follow a fair procedure, and do not jump to conclusions.
Employers should remind employees of their rules in relation to internet use and that those rules apply during the games. Where there is no existing internet policy in place, employers will need to act quickly to communicate their expectations to their staff and the consequences of a breach. If an employer is prepared to allow greater internet access during the games, the boundaries should be made clear, as should the fact that this “indulgence” is for the 2012 London Olympic Games only!
The Olympics will hopefully be a special event – and one we remember for all the right reasons; not because you ended up in a dispute with your staff!