How will the olympic games affect your business?

Everyone hopes that the Olympics and the Paralympic Games will be a success and enjoyed by all, but both business and their staff need to plan for how they will deal with the problems with will arise because of the games.

Things to think about:

  1. How will your staff get into work?
  2. How will your business cope with requests for holiday during the games?
  3. Can you change your terms and conditions of employment on a temporary basis  for the duration of the Olympics?

Travel Disruption

Transport operators may be working to a different timetable, roads may be closed and traffic may slow everyone down. This may affect not only your business in terms of delivery of goods etc, but also it may impact on your employees’ ability to get to and from work on time, or even at all. You should therefore

  • Manage attendance during the period of the games – speak with the workforce to let them   know your expectations and requirements.   Make contingency plans to ensure that any    deadlines are met in the event of absenteeism or reduced working hours.
  • Find out if any employees have particular problems and if so, encourage them to look at    alternative methods of transport or routes.
  • If there are genuine travel problems, consider alternatives such as flexible working or    working from home or another location.
  • Make sure that employees can always keep in touch with you by mobile telephone or    emailstext messages

Taking Holiday

Many employees will want to take holiday to attend the Olympic or Paralympic events if they have been lucky enough to obtain tickets.  Others might want to watch it on TV, or just get out of London whilst it is all taking place! Given that it is also school holiday time, many employees will have wanted to take holiday in that period anyway.

Consider your contracts of employment. A well drafted employment contract or handbook should give guidance on how notice is booked and approved e.g. provide for a period of notice to be given to take holiday, and for approval of the dates to be in the Employer’s discretionary.   

Because of the unique occasion, you may wish to be more flexible, but staff should be told how you will deal with requests for holiday – whether it be on a “first come, first served” basis or taking into account other factors. Whatever system is used, it must be fair and not discriminatory.

What if there are no contractual rules regarding holiday in place?    

Regulation 15 The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that a worker must give hisher employer at least twice as much notice to take holiday as the length of the holiday itself. The Employer can refuse permission to take the leave at that time, but give the worker notice of this within a period equivalent to the period of leave requested.

Unpaid leave

Other than for certain specific reasons (such as to care for dependants) there is no right to unpaid leave.  Most contracts will provide that unpaid leave, where allowed, can only be taken after holiday leave is exhausted.

What if you or your employees have been chosen as a Volunteer (Game Maker) at the Olympics or Paralympics?

Unless otherwise provided for in the contract of employment, there is no legal “right” to time off – either paid or unpaid  (other than contractual or statutory holiday).    Some larger employers will allow time off on the basis that this may allow the employee to develop skills or to help support the local community, but ultimately it is the Employer’s decision whether or not to allow paid or unpaid leave.

What if holiday or unpaid leave is refused, but the Employee is absent without leave?

This then becomes a disciplinary problem.  A well drafted contract of employment will have a disciplinary procedure and this must be followed.

Where the reason given for the absence is sickness, then if the contract of employment has been well drafted and the Employer suspects that the sickness is not genuine, the Employer may be entitled to insist on a sickness certificate being provided (or even, depending on the length of the absence) have the employee independently medically examined. If sick pay is discretionary, the Employer can consider refusing to pay sick pay (but must implement this policy fairly and evenly across the workforce).  

Temporary Change in Terms of Employment

Contractual changed cannot be imposed without the employee’s agreement.   Employers should make it clear that any changes are for the duration of the games only and that thereafter the normal contractual situation will apply.

Some changes may assist Employees (e.g. flexibility of working hours, allowing work from home etc) and may be welcomed and agreed.    If not, Employers are advised to look at their existing contractual provisions, which may already contain a flexibility clause.

Consider circulating an “Olympics Policy” which tells staff how they are expected to work during the games.  Such a Policy could, for example:

  • Remind staff how absenteeism and poor time keeping will be dealt with.  Consider notifying staff that all absences during the period of the games must be supported by a medical certificate even during a normally “self certifying” period;
  • Inform staff about any special arrangements regarding holidays;
  • Deal with such issues such as parking fines and tickets if company vehicles are used;
  • Inform them of any deadlines and urgent work which they are expected to make special arrangements to deal with;
  • Make sure your contact details are up to date;
  • Make a plan of how to deal with viewing TV or internet coverage during working hours;
  • Make it clear that any bullying or discriminatory, sexist or offensive remarks e.g. regarding different national teams or standards between men and women’s events will not be tolerated, and could lead to disciplinary procedures.

If you wish to discuss any employment problem, please contact Janet Long, Solicitor in our employment team on 0203 254 1435 or by email at  j.long@pj-h.co.uk