Research recently released by the MWB Business Exchange revealed that a third of City of London firms have made no contingency plans for the Olympics, and only one in 10 are planning to allow staff flexible working facilities such as being able to work from home.
Frances Strickley, Associate at leading law firm Thomas Eggar LLP believes City of London firms must prepare now for the Olympics to maintain good employee relations and ensure that disruption to business is kept to a minimum.
Frances provides her top 3 tips for City employers and HR managers in preparing for this summer’s Olympics.
1. Be flexible and consistent
Employers will be facing holiday requests from volunteers and employees who want to watch the Games at home or in person, as well as the usual peak holiday season requests.
Employers do have a right to decline requests, however refusals must be fair and consistent in order to preserve good relations and avoid discrimination allegations. Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, has issued helpful guidance on how to avoid employee absence during the Games, reiterating the importance of being clear and honest with employees and to try and be as flexible as possible. (http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3392)
2. Watching the Games and flexible working
Inevitably, some employees will be arriving late for work and/or wanting to leave early. To minimise the impact of this, employers may want to consider the following:-
- Providing facilities to watch the Games at work, or allowing employees internet access at certain points to watch events online;
- Introducing a flexible working policy on the condition that employees still work their core hours and are available when required would reduce the risk of punctuality issues; or
- Agreeing temporary changes to the terms and conditions of employment to enable them to work from home or commute outside the busiest travel times.
3. Temporary workers: Plan ahead
Employers are likely to need a number of temporary staff to meet the increased demand in business and cover absent employees’ shifts.
Plan ahead and book in temporary staff now to ensure you have consistent staffing levels and are not left without adequate cover during the Games.
And what if you are an employee wanting time off for the games to volunteer? Hopefully most employers will be lenient during the games, but be aware that they are not obliged to give you time off. ACAS has the following tips which you might find useful:
- If you are a volunteer “Games Maker” at the Olympics but your boss won’t let you have the time off. There is no legal right to time off to volunteer. Your employer will need to look at their business needs when allocating time off. Check with your line manager if the company has a policy on volunteering. You may be able to reach a compromise – in terms of taking annual leave or unpaid leave for some of the days.
- If you don’t have enough holiday left to take, discuss this with your employer, they may have a policy for employees wishing to volunteer as many businesses now actively encourage employees to get involved in community or charitable projects. Your employer may allow you time off, either unpaid or paid, or even match your annual leave with special leave.
The key is to plan ahead and get your request in as early as possible!