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What is your policy for the Olympic games?

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As with any national public event, the Olympic games are likely to raise some employment issues that you should consider sooner rather than later.

With less than five months to go, now is the time for you to consider the impact that the Games are likely to have on your business and how you can best use this unique opportunity to your advantage.

But, in my experience, many companies have yet to establish a leave policy for the big event.

Whilst a lot of the Olympic action will take place outside normal office hours, some key events will not. With this in mind, it is likely that you will receive increased requests for leave or flexible working around the time of the Games. Unsurprisingly, there is no statutory entitlement to take time off to watch the Olympics, so you should check your annual leave policy and remind your staff of the procedure for taking time off and the amount of notice required. Employers may want to remind their employees that they need to request holiday with advance notice and that although requests will be considered, there is no guarantee that each request will be approved.

I would advise all businesses to take into account the needs of their business when considering such requests. If you feel your business cannot accept holiday requests, you generally have the right to refuse the request, as long as you do so on reasonable grounds. For example, it may be reasonable to refuse holiday during a peak business period when the services of the- employee in question are required.

Multiple holiday requests should be treated fairly and consistently and you need to decide what approach to take when dealing with holiday requests over the Games period and communicate this to your staff, i.e. will holiday requests be granted on a first come first served basis?

Instead of allowing time off, you may want to consider a temporary flexible working practice, allowing your staff to work different hours or make up missed hours on other days. However, if you do approve a greater number of requests for time off or flexible working, remind your staff it is a one-off.

If you do not have a holiday policy, you must refer to the Working Time Regulations 1998, which states that an employee must give their employer advance notice equivalent to twice the number of days they wish to take off. It is important that you are mindful that some of your employees may be following athletes from nations other than Great Britain and ensure the same opportunities for time off to watch the action are applied consistently regardless of which nation they are following.

Statistics show an increased rate of absence around major sporting events, so you should remind your staff of the company’s policy on unauthorised absence and procedures for reporting sickness absence. If these procedures are not in place, you should think about putting them in place as early as possible.

The Olympics needn’t be a negative experience for companies – planning ahead and allowing your staff to get the most out of the Games can help boost their cohesion and morale, as well as reduce unauthorised absence.

Whatever your approach as an employer, ensure that your staff know the rules of engagement well in advance of the London 2012 Olympics on 27 July 2012.

Having the correct, up to date, policies and procedures on holidays, requests for leave, flexible working and unauthorised absence are the key to managing situations like these fairly and consistently.

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