Advice for employers ahead of 2016 Olympic Games in Rio

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Workplace expert, Acas, has launched new guidance today to help employers prepare for potential issues that could arise during the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro next month.

Rio 2016 will take place in Brazil between August 5 and 21 and Acas is advising employers and small businesses to have agreements in place that cover requests for time off, sickness absence, website use during working hours or watching TV during this period.

Sir Brendan Barber, Acas chairman, said: “Rio 2016 will be an exciting event for many sports fans but staff should avoid getting disqualified for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

“Many businesses need to maintain a certain staffing level in order to survive and sprint to that finish line. Employers should have a set of simple workplace agreements in place before the starting gun goes off for the Olympic Games. These agreements can help ensure businesses remain productive whilst keeping staff happy too, which are key ingredients for a gold medal winning team line up.

“Our guidance published today can help managers get the best from their team athletes by planning for potential hurdles, arranging team relay handovers if necessary and avoiding unnecessary false starts.”

Acas offers some top tips for employers to consider for the 2016 Olympic Games:

Plan in advance – employers should start planning as soon as possible to reduce the impact that the Olympic Games could have on their business as annual leave requests could be generally higher during the summer holiday period.

Employers might want to gauge the level of interest in the games with their employees, have open communications about suggested changes to working practices which balance staff request with the needs of the business to minimise any potential impact on productivity.

Flexibility – employers may wish to consider flexible working practices during the Olympics. One possible option is to have a more flexible working day. Employees could come in a little later or finish sooner and then agree when this time can be made up.

Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV may be another possible option. Employers could also allow staff to take a break during popular events. Another option is to look at allowing staff to swap shifts with their manager’s permission.

It is important for employers to be fair and consistent with all staff if they allow additional benefits during the Olympics.

Time Off – employers may want to look at keeping their leave policies simple and adopting a ‘first come, first served’ policy for staff wanting to book leave for the Olympics. Employees who want to travel to Rio to watch the games should not book flights until their leave has been agreed.

There has been a lot of media attention about the Zika Virus in the region, anyone concerned about this or other health and travel worries are advised to check Foreign Office advice for Brazil on gov.uk Employees travelling to Rio should also be aware of possible travel delays or jet lag once they are back in the UK and to take that into account when they book their leave and agree return to work dates with employers.

Whilst holiday leave should be booked well in advance, companies may wish to consider late requests for time off work. All requests for leave should be considered fairly and consistently.

Sickness absence - levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the company’s attendance policy. Any unauthorised absence or patterns of absence could result in formal proceedings. This could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness or late attendance due to post event celebrations.

Use of social media and websites - there may be an increase in the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter or websites covering Rio 2016. Employers may wish to remind staff of any policies on the use of social networking and websites during working hours.

Drinking policies - it is important to remember that anyone found under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures. Employees should be reminded of any alcohol policy as many people like to have a drink whilst watching sporting events.

Acas’ full guidance for the 2016 Olympic Games is available at: http://www.acas.org.uk/rio2016