UK: Managing Employment Issues During The Olympics

Last Updated: 12 June 2012
Article by Kemp Little’s Employment Pratice Group

While the Olympics is being welcomed by many employers and employees alike, there are genuine concerns among employers as to the level of disruption the Olympics is going to cause to their business, through transport disruption, increased absence from work and the knock-on impact this will have on productivity.

Our Q&A's below deal with the issues we are being asked most commonly about and set out guidance as to the practical steps you can and should be taking now to minimise disruption as far as possible and to ensure the Olympics is a successful and positive event for you and your employees.

Q. We are worried that some of our staff may use transport disruption as an excuse for lateness or absence from work, particularly on big event days. Is there anything we can do about this?

A: Transport disruption in the capital is likely to have the biggest impact on businesses, with over 3 million extra journeys a day expected in London on the busiest days. Transport for London have admitted there are likely to be severe delays and are now recommending commuters walk it to work. Businesses therefore need to have a strategy in place for dealing with the inevitable late and perhaps non-arrival of employees during this period, whether genuine or not.

Your strategy should consider what employees are expected to do if they are unable to make it into the office due to severe transport disruption, or if they will be significantly late. Employers are not (unless the contract provides otherwise) obliged to pay employees for the time they are unable to get into work. However, to maintain good employee relations many employers will consider allowing employees to either make up time, treat the time as holiday or work remotely on those days (see below for more on this point).

If there are concerns about employees using this as a reason for malingering, while potentially this could be grounds for disciplinary action, it may be difficult in practice to prove the employee hadn't genuinely suffered transport problems. Having a strategy in place, such as the one outlined above, and communicating this to employees, should discourage this type of malingering however as this will set the expectation that employees are expected to either make up the time in some way or use their annual leave to account for time away from the office due to travel disruptions.

Q. We have received a number of requests already for flexible and home working but don't generally have a policy of doing so in our office. Do we have to allow this?

A: There is no specific requirement to allow flexible working during the Olympics. However, many employers, including those previously reluctant to allow flexible working, are now considering this as a means of ensuring maximum productivity from their employees. The most common measures involve remote working and varying start and finish times so that employees can avoid travelling at peak times.

Issues you will need to think about if considering allowing flexible working include:

  • Documenting any agreed changes so that it is clear as to what is expected and that the arrangements are only on a temporary basis for the duration of the Olympics;
  • Ensuring employees have appropriate IT equipment and support if working from home;
  • Consideration of how productivity is going to be monitored/assessed during this period; and
  • Ensuring fairness between employees, so that requests for flexible working are dealt with consistently and the scope for dispute/discrimination claims is minimised. This will include consideration of how requests have been dealt with in the past and how this may impact on future requests. For example, if you have previously refused requests made under the flexible working legislation for early/late start times or home working, will the decision to now allow it be consistent with that and is it likely to impact on future requests.

Q. How do we deal with all the holiday requests we are likely to receive? The Olympics is coinciding with the start of the school holidays which is already a difficult time for us to resource.

A: The best starting point will be to check your annual leave policy as this may set out how competing requests are dealt with. If not, many employers are adopting a first come first served policy for annual leave as this is often felt to be the fairest approach. However, for some types of employees/teams, this may not be appropriate and in that case you may then need to consider requests on a case by case basis. Whichever approach you take, the key is to try and be consistent between employees.

If you receive too many requests, you are permitted to refuse annual leave. However, we suggest this is only done for genuine business reasons and again is done consistently to avoid claims for discrimination and potentially breach of trust and confidence if it is felt that leave has been refused arbitrarily. For the sake of employee relations, if at all possible we suggest adopting a flexible approach, in terms of the number of employees allowed off at one time during this period.

Q. Can we discipline employees who take sickness absence on the day of an important event when we suspect they were actually attending the Games?

A: While this is potentially grounds for disciplinary action, it may in practice be difficult to take action as proving an employee was not sick on any particular date can be difficult (unless perhaps they are captured on TV at one of the Games events). This is because employees are not legally required to provide medical certificates for one day's absence and may legitimately be sick without visiting their GP. It can therefore be difficult for either the employee to prove they were sick or the employer to prove otherwise.

Perhaps the best approach is to try and deter employees as far as possible from taking "sickies", by setting out clearly what is expected of them when they are sick. Employees who are required to discuss their absence with their manager/HR are often less willing to take "sickies" so you could, for example, require employees to speak to their manager/HR directly rather than simply leaving a message and/or require employees to have a return to work meeting following their absence.

Q. One of my employees is a volunteer and has asked for time off even though they have used up most of their annual leave for the year. Do we have to allow this and if so, do we have to pay the employee for this leave?

A: Other than for certain public duties, which do not include the Olympics, employees do not have a right to time off work in order to volunteer. Many volunteers will therefore be using up their annual leave to do so. Where employees cannot do this, as in this example, they can ask their employer for an additional period of leave. Employers are under no obligation to grant additional leave but many, subject to business requirements, are allowing employees to take a limited amount of unpaid (and in a few cases, paid) leave to allow them to fulfil their volunteer duties.

If granting additional leave, whether paid or unpaid, employers should be aware of the possibility that other employees may ask for time off in the future for different types of volunteering activities and are likely to expect the same treatment. Employers should therefore be careful about setting a precedent they may not wish to follow in the future.

Q. We are planning on setting up a large screen TV in one of our meeting rooms. Are there any issues we should be aware of?

A: This should, and in all likelihood will, be a great opportunity to increase employee and team morale. However, it may be sensible to consider if you want to put any ground rules in place to ensure the business continues to run smoothly and to prevent any disciplinary matters arising from, for example, excessive internet streaming of events or "banter" that gets out of hand.

Potential issues to consider include:

  • Whether you will require employees to make up time either before/after work or during lunch breaks;
  • Whether, to ensure the business continues to function, you will need to set any limits as to the number of employees that are required to remain at their workstations at any one time, and if so, how you will decide who is allowed to watch the event;
  • What is your policy on internet streaming of events, the use of social media and online betting, and has this been communicated to employees; and
  • Whether to give employees a gentle reminder that what to some may be harmless "banter", to others may be hurtful, offensive and potentially discriminatory, as race discrimination does not only refer to skin colour but also to nationality, ethnic and national origins. As with any international sporting event, supporters are likely to be passionate about their teams and care needs to be taken to ensure the line isn't crossed into discriminatory behaviour. Employers may, unless they can show they took all reasonable steps to prevent the discriminatory behaviour, be vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. It is therefore in your interests to make sure your employees are aware of the issues and that inappropriate behaviour will not be accepted.

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
Related Video
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.