21st May 2012

The Olympics – overcoming the hurdles

The Olympic Games will take place between 27 July and 12 August and the Paralympic Games between 29 August and 9 September.  This Q&A looks at some of the key challenges that the Games present for employers and gives our practical tips on how to deal with them.

What can employers do if demand for annual leave is high?

If demand for annual leave is high, employers could consider whether to allocate time off on a first come first served basis or draw lots.  You should take care to ensure that requests for leave are dealt with fairly and consistently to minimise allegations of discrimination.  Employers can reject requests where the correct procedure has not been followed or where leave cannot be granted for legitimate business reasons.

How about dealing with holiday requests at the last-minute?

The procedure for taking time off is usually set out in a staff handbook or else is customary in the workplace.  If you have no set procedures whether in writing or not, the default provisions under the Working Time Regulations will apply.  Under the Regulations, employees need to give at least twice as much notice of the leave they wish to take, e.g. 2 weeks’ notice for a week’s annual leave. 

What about the potential surge in employees using the network for internet coverage of the Games?

Employers should review their rules and/or IT policy and consider whether it is simply a case of reminding employees of the rules and the consequences of breaking them or whether specific rules need to be introduced for the duration of the Games.  In either case, the rules should be clear and consistently applied.

What about employees pulling ‘sickies’?

If an employee does not turn up to work without good reason then employers would be entitled to deal with the matter under their disciplinary procedures.   Employers are advised not to jump to conclusions without evidence of their suspicions.  Remember that you cannot ask for a doctor’s certificate until after the 7th day of sickness.   If there is evidence that sickness absence is not genuine then that can be dealt with as misconduct.

What if national pride surfaces in office banter?

Employers may need to remind employees of their equal opportunities policies and that unlawful harassment will lead to disciplinary action.

Sarah Winter
Senior Solicitor Employment Law

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