The 30th Olympiad will run from 27 July to 12 August, followed by the Paralympics from 29 August to 9 September. Approximately 10,500 athletes will compete in 302 events.
Employers need to be aware of the disruption that the event may cause to working patterns.
There is widespread interest in the Olympics and employers are likely to receive requests from employees to enable them to attend or volunteer at events, or watch events of particular interest at home or at work.
Strictly speaking, employers can grant or refuse such requests in accordance with their contracts of employment or Staff Handbook. However, the Games also provide an opportunity for employers to build up goodwill with employees by taking a more flexible approach.
Employers can minimise unauthorised absence by implementing measures to accommodate requests, such as:
- Encouraging staff to book holiday for the days in question, subject to maintaining minimum staffing levels.
- Implement flexible working practices so that staff can take time to watch events at work. Employers should emphasise that flexible working must have prior approval and must fit with the operational needs of the business.
- Allow staff to swap shifts to watch events.
- Permit staff to watch events in a communal area.
It’s important that employers are consistent in dealing with requests and it would be wise to issue a policy or memo, setting out expectations and plans.
Employers should also ensure that they have the appropriate TV licence to enable people to watch the games at work.
Employees should be made aware in advance of how unauthorised absence will be dealt with, which may include disciplinary action. Employers should also review contracts and handbooks to ascertain whether they have the right to withhold pay for unauthorised absence. Any deductions from salary need to be in accordance with the contract of employment, otherwise an employee could make a claim to the Employment Tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages.