With the Olympic Games 2016 about to start in Brazil, Acas has launched guidance advising employers to draw up agreements with their staff covering issues such as requests for time off, sickness absence and website use during working hours.

Among other things, the guidance suggests that employers:

  1. Ask their employees what changes they could usefully introduce to working practices in order to balance staff interest in the games with the needs of the business
  2. Consider introducing flexible working practices such as a more flexible working day allowing employees to come in later or finish sooner; allowing staff to take a break during popular events to listen to the radio or watch television; allow staff to swap shifts
  3. Adopt a “first come, first served” policy for staff wanting to book leave to watch the Olympics. This should be booked in the normal way, as set out in the company handbook/policy. Although leave should be booked well in advance, employers might want to consider late requests for time off work. In order to deal with all requests equally, employers might find it useful to draw up guidelines to make clear how those requests will be dealt with
  4. Any temporary changes to rules and policies should be transparent and non-discriminatory
  5. Make staff aware of sickness absence policies, in particular that unauthorized sick leave could result in formal proceedings being taken against them
  6. Remind staff of any policies in place on the use of social networking and websites during working hours
  7. Remind staff that anyone found under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary proceedings

Iain Birrell, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This practical guidance contains sensible and useful suggestions for safely steering through the Olympic fortnight without disciplinary incident. It also helpfully reminds employers that not everyone is a sports fan, and that some staff may resent colleagues getting special treatment. This is a nod to the possibility of complaints of discrimination where differing treatment inadvertently touches upon protected characteristics. For example, consider a situation where a man gets to go home early to watch the Olympics, but a woman is denied that same facility to attend her child’s school sports day.

“A balance needs to be struck of course; employers need to act sensitively, and complainants need to consider that one unintended outcome of an unmeritorious complaint may be that special arrangements at work are withdrawn both for the Olympics and future special occasions.”

The Olympic Games take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between 5 and 21 August 2016.

To read the guidance in full, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3392