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As I write this article, there are 58 days to go to the opening ceremony of London 2012 – the first summer Olympic Games to be held in the UK for more than 60 years and more than likely the last to held here for at least as long again.
But I wonder how many employers have considered the potential issues of absenteeism as a result of many employees wanting to watch these ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ Games, either in real life or on the television.
In fact, with the European Football Championships kicking of next week, there starts a “sports fest” that will last almost the entire summer, with Wimbledon, a host of cricket against both Australia and South Africa, the British Open Golf and even the British F1 Grand Prix sandwiched between the Euros and the Olympics.
A large proportion of employees across the UK will be looking forward to these competitions and will be starting to think about how and where they will be watching the key events and matches. It is important for employers to remember that the UK’s working population is incredibly diverse and individuals could be interested in watching competitors from all nations, not just Great Britain.
Of course, employers have no obligation to cater for their employees’ sporting interests but evidence suggests that where employers show that they care about their staff and their extra-curricula interests, employees are more likely to demonstrate a reciprocal loyalty to the organisation.
In a recent survey (CIPD/Hays Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey) the early indications are that almost a third of employers say that they will try to accommodate requests from employees who want to watch the Olympics, with around a fifth extending flexible working opportunities and ten percent actively encouraging employees to work from home.
Clearly there will be greater issues in this respect for businesses based in London and in the other Olympic venue locations. However, all companies should give some thought as to how they will react and respond to either requests for leave (many requests overlapping) or with an increase in absenteeism – both authorised and unauthorised – during this period.
There are various approaches that employers could adopt to ensure that employees can enjoy their sport without compromising the needs of the business. This column is too short to enable me to examine these in any depth but I list below some bullet points for employers to consider:
- Flexible working hours;
- Shift swaps;
- Unpaid leave;
- Advance ‘negative’ leave;
- Screening of special events/matches on the premises;
- TV or Radio on in the background;
- Keeping track of events via the internet.
Clearly there are issues to be aware of, not least ensuring that the company has considered all health and safety aspects associated with any of the above. The company will also need to ensure that it has the correct licensing in place if they are allowing sporting events to be screened on-site on a company owned TV, computer or mobile phone.
The final point I would stress concerns alcohol misuse and resultant absence. Whilst adopting a caring and flexible approach to the summer’s sporting events, employers must also ensure that staff remain aware that there are disciplinary consequences for taking unauthorised time off without good reason or for not performing or misbehaving at work.