Summer of Sport: on your marks, get set, GO!!!
In addition to the Olympics, Euro 2012 Football is also taking place and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations have just taken place. These could all trigger unplanned absences for the workforce and could potentially cost UK industry millions in lost productivity.
With many of the events this summer taking place during daytime hours, one of the issues employers need to consider is how to assess the likelihood that staff will want to take time away from work to watch and celebrate.
Employees will generally fall into two groups:
• Those who plan to take time off because they are:
o a spectator - lucky enough to have secured tickets to attend events this summer;
o a volunteer – selected to attend as a Games Maker (for the Olympics).
• Those who:
o hope to watch some television or internet coverage while at work/during their normal working hours;
o are not that interested in sports and who may resent the ‘favouritism’ that they may perceive is being shown to those with sporting interests;
o want to take annual leave during these period, most of which fall during the long school holidays.
As such, employers need to first and foremost manage attendance by talking to employees about the plans they intend to implement in the work place. If trade unions are recognised then arranging for early discussions with them and/or staff representatives to draw up an agreed approach beforehand and communicate it clearly and effectively to staff is a good idea. It might be helpful to draw up a policy to cover the period of these sporting and other events and perhaps book leave on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Flexible working is another option employers may want to consider, including shift swapping, if necessary and if possible by allowing staff to work from home or another remote location. Even if this is not something you currently offer, you may want to do so on a short term basis at least. Another good idea might be to allow staff to have access to a television or internet coverage during agreed times of the day, providing that lost time is made up.Employers may benefit from providing such an approach to reasonable employee requests to support their team or country as it is also likely to boost moral in the workplace. Bear in mind however that employers must be fair to all and cannot discriminate by only offering such benefits to staff who are interested in sport.
A temporary change to terms and conditions of employment might be useful for some employers (and of course their employees). For example a change in working hours may help both parties. Do your contracts already have a flexibility clause? If not, now might be the time to look at one. Any change must of course be done with the agreement of your employees and it must be made absolutely clear to them that this is a temporary change only and for how long the change will remain in place, so as to avoid any misinterpretation. It should be made clear that taking unauthorised time off without good reason could result in disciplinary procedures being invoked.
It is not uncommon these days for employers to encourage their employees to volunteer in order to help develop their skills. Employers tend to give their employees who do volunteer work an agreed number of paid days Special Leave per year to volunteer – usually around 2 or 3. There can also be business benefits for employers in terms of profile raising and again boosting staff moral.
If you have a member of staff who has a volunteer place as a Olympic Games Maker, remember they do not have a legal or automatic right to take time off . It is up to you to decide whether to give paid or unpaid time off for this, or alternatively the employee can request annual leave. You will need to look at the needs of the business when allocating time off. Remember also that Games Maker volunteers may also need time off to undergo special training for their roles. Employers may therefore want to consider a mixture of unpaid Special Leave and paid annual leave.
Whatever you decide to do, communicate your plans at an early stage as employees will want to know as soon as possible what arrangements are being put in place to support them in enjoying their preferred activities. Once employees know that their employer intends to screen some of the more popular events or will allow them to watch them elsewhere, not only will it boost moral, the chances of half the work force phoning in sick on the day in question, will immediately be reduced.
Progression Solicitors are happy to advise employers on all aspects of employment law and employees on their employment rights and can do so either at our new office at 5 Crescent Road, Windermere or our Ulverston office at 11 Queen Street.