02/09/2011

By Laura Evans, Employment Lawyer, Fox Williams LLP

With some 7.7 million spectators and over 40,000 athletes and members of the press expected to descend on London during the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer, the athletes aren’t the only ones who will need to get in shape and prepare!

Early planning will allow you to capitalise on the potential commercial advantages as well as boosting internal morale and goodwill. London is likely to be very busy during the Games; you will need to be creative and flexible to ensure that staff can still carry out their duties and your business isn’t adversely affected.

Start planning now

A good starting point is to review the policies you have in place:

• If you have a Business Continuity Plan in place review this and consider building upon it to deal with possible Olympic disruptions.

• Review your policies and contracts of employment, particularly clauses relating to hours and place of work - are they sufficiently flexible to allow for change?

Altered working patterns

Small changes to working patterns can prevent big headaches for HR. Consider the following options:

• Consider temporary flexible working patterns so that staff can start early/ late in order to watch or attend key events.

• Consider remote working which may be a solution to congestion problems and travel delays.

• How will you monitor performance? Communicate clear messages that remote workers are still expected to complete a full day's work!

• This could be a good opportunity to ‘trial run’ changes to working patterns.

Managing demand for annual leave

• Firstly, form a realistic plan of your minimum staffing requirements during the Games.

• Secondly consider how you will allocate leave if you have more requests than you are able to grant: What does your Holiday Policy say? If possible follow it or consider allocating on a first come, first served basis or from a ballot. Tell staff at an early stage how you intend to deal with applications for leave.

• Will employees be required to use their annual leave if they have been selected as volunteers? Some employers have decided to allow exceptional leave for volunteers at the Olympics, but if you do the same, will it be paid leave? If you do allow exceptional leave, communicate the policy clearly, ensure consistent treatment amongst applicants and ensure that the policy is stated to apply for volunteers at the 2012 Olympics only.

Predicting and preventing problems

Unauthorised absence

• How will you deal with an increase in apparent sickness absences during the Games?

• Communicate your disciplinary policy in advance.

• Don’t jump to conclusions! Acting in a heavy handed manner may destroy trust.

Internet use

• Staff may want to watch live events via the internet. Does this breach your I.T. policy? Will you relax your internet use policies?

• Surges in internet and phone networks will impose additional stresses on your local networks - can your systems cope with this?

The problems with patriotism

• Beware giving (or being seen to give) GB supporters priority over non GB supporters.

• Where does ‘banter’ stop and harassment begin?

• Have you provided your employees with training on equal opportunities and harassment recently?

Winning solutions!

• Establish policies and communicate these in advance.

• Beware discrimination and harassment claims.

• Plan well and earn some easy employee relations points and save management time!

Laura Evans can be contacted for more information about this article at levans@foxwilliams.com or 0207 614 2590.

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