Planning for the Olympics

19th June 2012

Planning for the Olympics

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Unless you are completely disconnected from the TV, radio and news media, you will know that the Olympics 2012 is almost upon us. With the opening ceremony on 27th July and the closing ceremony on 12th August, it is likely that there will be a number of employees wanting to watch their national team compete at their favourite sport during working hours. Have you thought about how to accommodate their wishes with your own need to get the job done?

You are of course entitled to ban the Olympics from your premises. Watching sport is not a human right. The problem with this approach, apart from possibly lowering your staff morale, is that you may encounter an epidemic of Olympicitis, with staff self-certifying off sick when the final of their favourite sport is on. You can also expect everyone to down tools during the 100 metres final, though only for 9.58 seconds or less if Usain Bolt has anything to do with it.

If you decide not have any sport in the workplace, you may find yourself inundated with requests for time off. We would advise that you think about how you will deal with this if it happens. It may be an overall limit of numbers of employees off on any one day coupled with a first come first served policy for booking leave.

Whether you allow a giant screen in your premises or give your staff the time off, you also have to be careful about exuberant support. Sports pitches are not renown for their equal opportunities ethos. Allowing inappropriate banter in your workplace may leave you exposed to discrimination claims. If employees can watch the games at their desk or in the staff room, we would recommend that you think very carefully before allowing alcohol in the workplace.

If you are based anywhere around London, you should also prepare for travel disruption.

Acas has issued some tips ( that should help you plan how to deal with these potential problems. Acas advice is that you should try to be:

  • Flexible, where possible – for example, by altering start and finish times during the working day or allowing longer lunch breaks or allowing people to work from home if possible
  • Make sure everyone knows what to do if trains are full or roads are blocked
  • Use phones to keep in touch – nearly everyone has a mobile phone these days
  • Clear about what you expect from employees – in terms of attendance and performance during the Olympics – managing employees’ expectations of what might be possible
  • Communicative – start talking to staff about their plans now
  • Honest – if you cannot accommodate any changes to your work practices then say so. Also, you may need to remind employees that any special arrangements for watching the games are only temporary
  • Fair – you need to be seen to be fair about the way you respond to requests for time off and avoid favouritism

Once you have checked with staff about plans, we would recommend that you make a plan covering all the issues that you think might affect your business. Having made your plan it is important that you communicate it to staff.

Make sure that you circulate the written policy around all of your staff and remind them that any time off comes out of their holiday entitlement. It is also worth including a statement that you will keep an eye on sickness absences over the period and any suspicious absences could result in disciplinary action.

The aim is for employees to enjoy the Olympics without trouble, while maintaining productivity for your business and keeping clients happy. Please also don’t forget those employees that are completely uninterested in the Olympics. If you give extra time off to sports fans, allow it for sports widows.

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