By Daniel Hunter
With less than 100 days to go until the opening of the London Olympics, it’s not just athletes who need to be finalising their preparations — employers also need to act or face a summer of chaos, experts have warned.
Most employers have already had to deal with a rush of holiday requests as those lucky enough to have bought tickets or arranged to volunteer at the Olympic Games applied for time off.
Now, with less than 100 days to go, bosses need to prepare for how they deal with requests for flexible working, what provisions there are — if any — for watching the Games during working hours, and any suspicious absenteeism.
“Once they have dealt with those staff who want time off during the Games, employers need to make sure the rest of their teams are productive while at work," Peter Mooney, head of employment law at business support specialist, ELAS, said.
“For some, that will mean allowing staff to work flexibly during the Games themselves, while others will want to make provisions for workers to watch events in break rooms or at their desks over the internet.
“Others, meanwhile, will just want to ensure it’s business as usual during working hours so will want to remind staff about their approach to absenteeism and be prepared to discipline anybody found to have ‘thrown a sickie’ in order to watch or go to any of the events.”
To help prepare business, ELAS have put together a checklist of top tips to consider during the final 100 days before the Games begin.
1) Decide on holiday leave on a first come, first served basis: It’s essential that when employers decide who can take time off and who can’t, they do so fairly and in a way which doesn’t allow anybody to feel that they are being discriminated against. If they’ve not already, employers should set a ‘first come, first served’ rule for holiday requests and apply it rigidly.
2) Remind staff about your approach to absenteeism: Anybody who has been refused time off is always more likely to fall down ill when the requested day arrives. Remind staff about your approach to absenteeism and be prepared to take action against those who cannot provide evidence of their ill health.
3) Consider flexible working: If you can afford to alter shift patterns to allow staff to watch their favourite events, consider doing so. Doing so for a major event such as the Olympics needn’t set a precedent, so don’t be afraid that once you allow it once, you’ll be inundated with requests forever. Make it clear that the Olympics are an exception and return to business as usual after they are over.
4) Make sure you have a TV licence — or bar people from watching any footage on their computers: The internet has made it easy for anybody with an internet connection to watch live coverage of sports and the Olympics will be no different. As an employer, you need to ensure that you have a TV licence to cover this, or you must prevent staff from watching online.
5) Keep an eye on productivity: Many employers will be happy to accommodate their staff during the Games in order to keep them happy and productive, but don’t allow yourself to be a mug. If you are giving concessions such as TV breaks and flexible hours, make sure that when staff are working, they are working as hard as usual — and don’t be afraid to act against those who aren’t.
“With the Olympics, European Championships for football and events like Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix, this year promises to be a real summer of sport but that always brings with it a few headaches for managers," Mooney added.
“In every situation their only priority should be to be fair to everyone. Bosses need to set their stall out now, then stick to it — rigidly, if needs be.
“So long as managers are being fair, they should be able to reap the benefits of having a motivated, enthusiastic workforce.
“But if they do face challenges, with staff watching sports when they should be working or ringing in sick to go to events, they mustn’t be afraid to act. The only way to do that is to be well prepared, and that means acting now.”
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