UK: Be A Good Sport!: Managing Employee And Staff Disruptions During The 2012 Olympic Games

Last Updated: 24 May 2012
Article by Gretchen Lennon

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (the Games) will be hosted in London this summer and it is not only the athletes who need to ensure they are well prepared. If they have not already done so, employers should consider implementing adequate policies and procedures, and, if necessary, temporarily amending working practices, to ensure they maintain a high level of employee productivity while preserving a healthy relationship with staff during the Olympics. Set out below is a number of the potential challenges that employers in the UK are likely to face this summer, and the practical steps that can be taken to alleviate their impact.

REQUESTS FOR LEAVE

The Challenges

Employers should expect a greater than usual number of requests for annual leave during this period. Those hoping to take vacation will include not only the usual holiday-makers wishing to take time off during the peak vacation season, but will extend to employees who have been able to get hold of tickets for an Olympic or Paralympic event, those who have volunteered to assist with the organization and coordination of the events as 'Games Makers,' and finally those who simply want to take vacation to watch the events from the comfort of their own homes. The challenge is to deal with these requests fairly and reasonably in light of conflicting business requirements and employee expectations.

The Solutions

Employers must begin by considering the needs of their businesses and whether they will be able to grant the requests of all employees wishing to take time off for the Games. Consideration should be given to the adequacy of an existing annual leave policy, particularly whether a specific policy should be implemented to deal with vacation requests during this period. Generally, employers in the UK have the right to decline employees' vacation requests (as long as employees are permitted to take their annual vacation entitlement at some other time in the applicable year). However, employers should take care to ensure that their approach to granting or denying vacation requests is fair and consistent, in order to avoid potential conflict or claims of unfair discrimination.

Balloting system. One solution may be to adopt a balloting or other objective system to ensure fair and impartial selection where an employer is unable to grant all received requests. This would be preferable to a 'first come, first served' system which, while it may at first glance seem like a reasonable method of selection, may risk disadvantaging part-time employees or those currently on leave.

Flexible working. Employers could also consider implementing a more flexible approach to working hours whereby employees could arrive earlier in the morning, in order to leave earlier in the evening, or vice versa. Further, employees could reduce the work week to four days, while still working the equivalent number of hours of a full working week. The viability of this approach will depend on a number of considerations, including the nature of the employees' work and the readiness of other employees to accommodate these changes by working longer hours, if necessary.

Working from home. Permitting employees to work from home may also be feasible for certain organizations and will alleviate any commuting problems that may be encountered. However, there are a number of important considerations that employers should bear in mind before implementing a blanket policy that allows all employees to work from home. Firstly, organizations will need to have appropriate information technology (IT) infrastructure in place, such as ensuring employees (a) have the necessary equipment, such as a computer (although equipment does not have to be provided at the employer's expense, employers are responsible for any equipment they provide) and (b) can remotely access the relevant networks and systems. In addition, it will necessarily be more difficult to supervise employees or monitor their performance or hours of work if they are not required to attend the workplace. Confidentiality may also be a concern if employees will be permitted to take confidential documents home. Finally, because employers are still responsible for employees' health and safety when they are working from home, it may be advisable to carry out workplace risk assessments in order to identify any hazards, such as loose wires or badly lit computer screens, and minimize any risks these pose. Ensuring employees are adequately set up to work from home may be a costly and time-consuming exercise and, if such systems are not already in place or are unlikely to be used beyond this summer, this may not be a practical solution.

The most important consideration for handling requests for leave during the Games will be to ensure that the policy is clearly communicated to employees in good time, and applied consistently throughout an employer's organization .

SHORT TERM ABSENTEEISM

The Challenges

It is likely that, during the Olympics and Paralympics, employers will notice a spike in short-term absenteeism: employees might call in sick in order to avoid using any of their annual leave entitlement, disappear during working hours (perhaps for an extended lunch break) or arrive late or leave early without authorization. This may be a deliberate decision on the part of ticket-holders who have been denied annual vacation for example, or could simply be because employees have been caught in the heavy traffic generated by the Games. Therefore, employers will need to consider how to fairly, but effectively, stem a trend that could prove detrimental to both overall productivity and staff morale.

The Solutions

The issue of employees suspected of 'pulling a sickie' conveniently timed to coincide with a particular Olympic or Paralympic event may be difficult for employers to navigate. If an employer suspects that an employee may not genuinely be sick, formal disciplinary proceedings may be appropriate. While it can be difficult to disprove an employee's claim that he or she was sick, an incriminating update on a public forum, such as a social networking website, may be very useful in these circumstances. However, absent any proof that the employee was not actually sick, the employer may have little remedy, as implementing a disciplinary hearing arguably means the employee is being accused of lying, which could possibly lead to a claim for constructive unfair dismissal as a result of a breakdown in mutual trust and confidence.

As an alternative, preventative measures should be taken as soon as possible to dissuade employees from trying this ruse during the Games. Where an organization 's sickness absence policy is not contractual, one solution may be to amend the current policy to require employees to submit medical certificates for any absence taken as sick leave during the course of the Olympics and Paralympics, even if such absence is only for one day. However, if a sickness absence policy forms part of an employee's terms and conditions of employment, any proposed amendments will require the employee's consent before they can be implemented.

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of the terms of the sickness absence policy and should be warned that breaches of the policy may lead to disciplinary action, regardless of whether any amendments to an existing sickness absence policy are proposed.

In circumstances where employees take unauthorized absences without authorization (i.e., by leaving work prematurely to catch an early evening event), employers can take disciplinary action and, following an investigation, may perhaps issue employees with a warning that repeat offences may lead to more serious sanctions. Offenders may be required to make up time for such unauthorized absences, or may be required to take the time spent off work as annual leave. However, employers should be mindful of the need to deal fairly with employees who have a reasonable justification for lateness, such as difficulties with commuting in light of increased traffic (which is expected to have a severe impact on journey times in London this summer). As mentioned above, employers should consider whether more flexibility in relation to working hours or permitting employees to work from home are viable solutions in light of their business needs.

FOLLOWING THE GAMES IN THE WORKPLACE

The Challenges

Permitting employees to watch the Games in the workplace, or to follow live updates via Internet feeds, might be taken as a license to work less productively, or to take too frequent breaks. Meanwhile, IT system speeds might be negatively impacted if events are to be streamed through the organization 's network.

The Solutions

Employers should consider whether to permit employees to follow the Games using office IT facilities. Generally, employers will have the right to either restrict or monitor the use of the Internet, and it is important that employees are made aware of this. If permitting employees to watch the Games using their office computers is not practical, or for those employees who do not have access to computers at work, employers may consider screening particular events, perhaps in a communal area such as the workplace canteen. This may have the combined benefit of reducing IT traffic while also regulating staff access to the Games and boosting workforce morale.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

In adopting concessionary solutions in order to deal with any of these problems, employers should be aware of other potential pitfalls. Employees with no interest in the Games, and whose journey times are not affected by them might be estranged by any alterations to working hours or arrangements, while working from home raises important issues of IT access, health and safety concerns and the need to ensure data confidentiality. Employers should give careful consideration to implementing a practical solution for their business which treats employees fairly and reasonably, whilst minimizing disruption to the day-to-day running of the business.

A recent poll in the UK found that 88 percent of employees questioned are largely unaware of the policies their employer has in place for dealing with potential worker absences and business disruptions during the Games. Clear communication is therefore essential if employers are to avoid confusion and minimize any reduction in productivity. Through careful consideration of the specific needs of their own organization, by instituting the appropriate procedures and policies as soon as possible, and by ensuring that employees are aware of these procedures and policies, employers should be in a position to manage employee expectations and minimize disruption to deliver a winning performance for their businesses during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.