EVERYONE CAN BE A WINNER DURING THE OLYMPICS IF EMPLOYERS GET THEIR PLANNING RIGHT, SAYS FURLEY PAGE
With the Olympic torch relay making its way around the UK, the final countdown to the London Games is well and truly on and employers should pre-empt potential difficulties by planning ahead, says Melissa Edmond of leading regional law firm Furley Page.
“The Olympics have the potential to lift employees’ spirits at a time when the economic climate threatens morale and it would be a shame to miss such a great opportunity,” says Melissa, a solicitor within the employment law team.
“Time off and time wasting are likely to be the main issues employers encounter.
“Holiday requests will be high as the Games fall within the busy summer holiday period and staff may request time off to volunteer, if lucky enough to have been selected as one of the 70,000 Games Makers,” says Melissa, who will herself be cheering on the torch relay when it passes the offices of Furley Page in Canterbury on 19 July.
Melissa says that consideration should be given to how holiday policies will be operated and the easiest method to avoid complaints might appear to be a ‘first come, first served’ basis. When it comes to volunteering, employees have no legal right to time off work for this reason so employers may ask volunteers to take annual leave, or unpaid leave.
“Holiday requests and unauthorised absences may be minimised if employers provide television coverage at the workplace for key events, subject to having the appropriate TV licence of course, or if employees are allowed to watch the Games on their desk top computers.
“Such arrangements will hopefully foster a positive collegiate atmosphere in the workplace, but reasonable limits should be set out. Staff should also be reminded that harassing co-workers who support different teams may lead to disciplinary action, as employers can be liable for discrimination and harassment by their employees,” says Melissa, who is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.
Employers should review existing policies and remind staff of them, particularly policies such as equal opportunities, disciplinary and grievance, annual leave and time off. Internet policies should be checked to see that they are appropriate for the approach the employer intends to take on internet use during the Games.
Policies may require amendment, if only temporarily, or there may be a need to introduce policies now to clearly communicate expectations.
Melissa says: “It would be unrealistic to suggest that the biggest sporting event in the world will not cause employers any disruption; however, planning ahead by organising time off requests and ensuring appropriate policies are in place and communicated to staff should help.
“To be the host of the Games is a once in a lifetime event and the opportunity to engage the workforce and encourage motivation through it should not be missed.”