UK: London Olympics 2012 - On Your Marks, Get Set...

Last Updated: 3 May 2012
Article by Adam Grant

We are now only three month's away from the start of the London Olympics. Hosting the Olympics will be a once in a lifetime event which will impact many UK employees whether that be via participating, spectating or commuting! Now is an ideal time for employers to review their summer plans and how best to overcome the hurdles that they may face. We set out below some key issues for you to consider as well as offering practical guidance to help you across the finishing line!


Summer holidays are typically in high demand, especially for those with childcare responsibilities. However, employers usually find willing volunteers who for some unknown reason, are happy not to pay double the price for their holiday to be surrounded by dozens of screaming kids. This year, those willing volunteers may be in short supply.  It is therefore essential that the holiday rota is carefully planned and internal holiday policies reviewed.  Policies should make clear the timeframes for holiday requests; how requests are decided at peak times and that all requests are subject to business needs. If employers find themselves short of cover, they can fall back on the Working Time Regulations to cancel holiday provided that they comply with certain time limits but please bear in mind that employees may have incurred non-refundable costs so this may be an unpopular decision. 

Flexible Working

Although the Olympics will be primarily based in East London, employers should remember that there are other venues throughout London; there will be a number of road closures; and that transport will be stretched to its limits. Such disruption is likely to impact negatively on productivity. If you do not already allow home working or flexible start and finish times, now may be the perfect opportunity to trial these. If you allow homeworking, ensure that your employees are working in a safe working environment (consider risk assessments) and that company and client data is accessed and stored in a safe manner. 

Absence Management

If you reject holiday requests, some employees may still look at alternative ways to get that time off, most specifically, sick leave. Save from seeing them waving at the cameras, posting an account of their day out on Facebook or Twitter, it is essential that you have clear  absence management policy. Policies should clearly set out to whom employees should speak in the event of absence and by when. With the advent of technology, texting or emailing to say that you will not be in has become an easy option for employees. Policies can ban such practices. Also consider introducing return to work meetings. It is surprising how many employees will think twice about calling in sick if they need to explain their absence directly to their manager.

Electronic Communications

For those employees who remain in the office, consider if you are willing to allow them to watch key events.  Will you make large screens available in communal areas or allow people to go to the local pub? There is no obligation on any employer to make such arrangements but doing so may earn you some brownie points and also allow you to control when people can view events.
 If you decide not to make arrangements, remember that employees may choose to access digital media such as You-Tube and BBC i-Player. This access could slow down internal computer servers and allow viruses onto the system. This may also encourage non-sports fans to spend more time on the internet if they feel that their colleagues are relaxing. Now is a perfect opportunity to review your electronic communications policy and if necessary for your IT team to put in place the necessary firewalls to prevent video and streaming on-line. 

Corporate Hospitality

If employees receive invites to corporate events remind them of any internal policies on accepting hospitality, especially in light of the recent Bribery Act. By all means enjoy a drink and sporting events, but be suspicious if you are suddenly offered the opportunity to present a medal!

Sunday Working

For those in the retail sector, the government plans to relax Sunday Trading Laws for an eight week period between 22 July 2012 and 9 September 2012.  If you intend to take advantage of this opportunity, check that contracts provide the necessary flexibility to ensure that staff can be required to work such hours. Also be aware that employees may seek to exercise their rights to opt out of Sunday Working. 

Whilst we all want employees to enjoy themselves, we also need to ensure that their behaviour does not impact negatively on the business. By putting in place the right policies and procedures now and organising staff facilities you will ensure that you are on track to field any potential disputes further down the line.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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