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Ready or not? London Olympics 2012

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It makes sound HR sense to formulate a plan that set out your organisation’s approach to the games.

With 205 nations, and 11,000 athletes descending on the capital to take part in over 300 world-class sporting events this summer, it’s no wonder most of us are more than a bit excited about the London Olympics.

No employer wants to put a damper on what’s set to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and with a watchword of caution, the London Olympics and Paralympics can be a win-win celebration – an accessible way to engage staff and boost morale.

The key to keeping things positive and harmonious in the workplace is to ensure clear communication with employees, so that everyone knows what is expected, as early as possible. If you haven’t already done so, it makes sound HR sense to formulate a plan and appropriate policies that set out your organisation’s approach to the games.

You might decide on a simple first-come-first-served policy for booking leave, but drawing up some guidelines is a good idea. You should also be prepared to receive employee holiday requests for specific events based on nationality, aim to accommodate them where possible and remind employees that no request is guaranteed.

Flexible working

As a small business, other issues to consider when devising an HR policy around the Olympics include flexible working. Even if your staff do not generally work flexibly, if the nature of your business permits it you might want to consider introducing the practice during the sport-obsessed fortnight of the games.

Performance issues are also likely to demand some consideration. If staff might be tempted to spend long periods gathered round a computer to watch the crowd-pulling sports, it might pay to plan for the most popular in advance.

Showing the big-ticket events, such as the opening ceremony and the athletics finals, on a wide screen tv on work premises demonstrates the kind of employer goodwill that keeps staff motivated.

Without being too heavy handed, it’s worth remembering that any employer-organised events that you might be putting on for staff are still officially considered work time. If there’s alcohol involved, it’s important to ensure employees behave appropriately and don’t get carried away by a heady combination of sporting history being made and one too many Olympic cocktails.

On a – possibly – related matter, employees who are off sick on the day of – or the day after – key sporting events should be made aware that they will need to provide medical evidence such as a doctor’s note, or risk triggering the company’s disciplinary procedure.

Given that most events are being held in London, travel disruption elsewhere in the country should be at a minimum. Nevertheless, it’s worth being prepared, especially with morning events, and insisting employees follow your company’s procedure for reporting lateness.

The competitive international nature of the Olympics might also throw up some unforeseen problems for employers with an ethnically mixed workforce. If good natured national sporting rivalries threaten to mutate into hostilities among your staff, you need to make employees aware of the sportsmanlike attitudes expected when supporting one nation over another.

Unwanted or aggressive behaviour towards colleagues of different nationalities could spill over into discrimination, which is totally unacceptable.

Maximising the feel-good factor of the Olympics - with its potential for employees to embrace the carnival spirit, and sporting values such as excellence, determination and respect - could be too good an opportunity for employers to miss. For low-cost ways to be a part of the sporting event of the century, small businesses might want to consider organising an employee away day to watch one of the free events such as the triathlon in Hyde Park or the road cycling in central London.

Failing that, workplace screenings of some of the popular events should help cast a warm glow that will win you plenty of gold medals for good employee relations during the 2012 extravaganza.

Any questions please contact our employment partner Sarah Tahamtani on 0113 336 3341.

Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.