Everyone is working together to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games a great success, but there are some real issues employers need to start thinking about now. Your employees will fall largely into two groups:
•those who plan to take time off during the Games because they hope to be:
◦a spectator: 6.6 million tickets were up for grabs and many people have a good idea of what events they will be attending.
◦a volunteer: the selection process to choose the ‘games makers’ has begun and successful applicants should be informed from early 2012
•those who have no plans to take time off during the Games but may either:
◦hope to watch some tv or internet coverage while at work or may wish to discuss some sort of temporary flexible working arrangement
◦get fed up with all the fuss and any perceived favouritism shown to those with sporting interests
As the countdown to the Games continues, Acas will be publishing new and updated guidance to help you:
•manage attendance: it’s time to start talking to your employees about their plans. You may keep your policy simple – maybe have a ‘first come, first served’ policy for booking leave – but it may help to draw up some guidelines
•work flexibly: whether or not you currently have flexible working in your business, it may be something to consider, even as a short-term measure
•deal with performance issues: there may be problems around staff watching lengthy coverage via their computers. Why not plan for popular sporting events in advance – perhaps giving staff access to a tv during agreed times?
•understand the legal rights of volunteers and the responsibilities you have towards them and how volunteering can help your business. Volunteering can help develop your employees’ skills but you obviously need to protect your business interests. Many volunteers will be agreeing to ten days work, with three days training prior to the Games. You may decide to match an employee’s leave with special leave. Acas will be publishing advice on volunteers in the Autumn.
Q&A on Volunteering
Q Three of my staff have got volunteer positions at the Olympics. I can only let one go. What’s the best way of handling this?
A They key to avoiding potential misunderstanding or conflict is to have a clear policy in advance and communicate this to all staff – that way, everyone knows where they stand and you look after your business needs. Your policy need not be very complicated – a simple process of ‘first come, first served’ may be enough.
Q I have a member of staff who has got a volunteer place at the Olympics. Do they need to use their own holiday?
A Employees have no legal right to take time off for volunteering. You can decide to give paid or unpaid time off or, if not, the employee may wish to take annual leave. Many employers encourage their employees to volunteer to help develop their skills and give employees an agreed quota of paid days leave per year to volunteer – typically, about two days a year.
Q I have a member of staff who has got a volunteer place at the Olympics. Am I expected to pay for them while they volunteer?
A There is no legal right to be paid for volunteering. Volunteering is something employees often do because of their own interest, but increasingly employers are recognising the business benefits of volunteering – in terms of developing skills and supporting the local community. If your employee is taking special leave then it would be up to you to decide whether that will be paid or unpaid.
Q I’ve got a volunteer place at the Olympics but my boss won’t let me have the time off.
A. 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.
Q I’ve got a volunteer place at the Olympics but I don’t quite have enough holidays left to take. Is there anything I can do?
A 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.
Q Will I get paid if I volunteer at the Olympics?
A There is no legal right to be paid for time off from your employer for volunteering, however your employer may allow you special leave with or without pay, or you may wish to take paid annual leave.
Read about what Acas has been doing behind the scenes to help the Games run smoothly.
Training course – Managing the impact of the London 2012 games on the workplace
Acas has designed a training course for employers that gives guidance on the issues they may need to think through arising from the London 2012 Games such as planning staff holidays, working from home, and coping with difficult journeys to work. Details of the course can be found on our training page.
Related training courses
Employing People – A Practical Introduction
Skills for supervisors