On your marks, get set... and get ready for the Olympics

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The London 2012 Olympics are fast approaching. What should EEF member companies be doing to get themselves ready?

Key dates

Olympic Games - 27 July-12 Aug 2012

Paralympic Games - 29 Aug-9 Sept 2012

Time off

Employees who’ve been lucky enough to get tickets for an Olympics event might need to use holiday to attend the event.

Other employees may have been offered positions as volunteers. They will be required to commit to at least 3 days training and at least 10 days during the Olympics.

The Olympics also fall within the school holidays, which is a popular time for holiday requests anyway. They also overlap with Ramadan, which starts on 20 July and continues until the festival of Eid on Sunday 19 August 2012.

Line managers should start assessing if they have enough cover. You might also want to look at changing your normal holiday policy for the Olympics.

For example, do you want to ask employees to tell you as soon as possible if they want holiday during the Olympics, rather than giving you the usual amount of notice?

Do you want to apply your normal rules for deciding who can take what holiday (e.g. first come, first served) or do you want a different system of priority for the Olympics?

If you think you may have insufficient cover, do you want to grant some requests for a day off during the Olympics on the condition that, for example, the employee is prepared to do an extra day’s work on another Olympics day?

If your business is actually based in London, however, you might find yourself wanting to encourage employees to take as much holiday as possible – see below. Similarly, some EEF member companies (such as IKEA) tell us that they are predicting a downturn in work during the Olympics and that they see it as an ideal time to allow holidays.

Use of reservists during the Olympics

Around 2,000 reservists are expected to be called up during the Olympics to assist with security.

If you employ a reservist who is mobilised for the Olympics, you must hold open their job but you do not need to maintain their salary unless you have a special agreement to the contrary (they will receive a military salary). You have the right to apply for an exemption if you can demonstrate harm to your business, although you have to act quickly. The MOD have said that their priority will be to minimise the impact on employers and where possible to mobilise those Reservists that have a more flexible employment situation. For more information – see the SaBRE website.

Watching at work

Some employees may have no specific plans to take holiday during the Olympics but hope to watch some of the television or internet coverage at work.

What is your policy on, for example, accessing internet coverage at work? Will you be offering access to a TV for particularly popular events? A number of EEF member companies have reported plans to hire TVs for the duration of the Games to be put in staff canteens etc.

Remember to check that you have a business TV licence to cover any television screening or live streaming through the internet – see here for TV licensing information:

Sickness absence

It’s possible that you will have employees feigning sickness in order to stay at home and watch the television coverage.

If your sick pay scheme is discretionary, you are within your rights to withhold sick pay altogether during the Olympics, although you will probably not want to go this far unless you have had similar problems in the past (for example World Cup Finals).

If your sick pay scheme is contractual then withholding sick pay altogether will not be an option, and you will need to manage any suspected abuse through your normal procedures on a case by case basis. Return to work interviews can be very effective in discouraging casual absence and could be a useful tool here.

One EEF member company is currently considering offering a small value gift card to those workers with 100% attendance during the Games.

For more advice on the pros and cons of different approaches to sick pay and for more advice on promoting a high attendance culture, see our managing sickness absence toolkit.

If you are based in London (or near other Olympics sites)

If you are based near an Olympics site then you will face the additional challenge of getting your employees to their place of work.

London 2012 is urging businesses to take action to reduce commuter travel during the Olympics, to keep disruption to a minimum. They point out that, when Sydney hosted the Olympics in 2000, 27% of Sydney’s residents took annual leave, 24%changed the number of hours they worked, and 22% worked remotely during the Games.

Companies based in London are being encouraged to consider setting employees up for home working and/or allowing them to adjust start and finish times to avoid peak hours.

Key options being considered by EEF member company Siemens Plc for one site in East London include changing location temporarily to its disaster recovery site and altering start/finish times. Possible suggestions under consideration at EEF member company Citroën UK Ltd include helping employees who live in London to travel by train to their site in Slough instead of driving, and suspending some team meetings during the Games.

If you are going to encourage home working, you need to think about the practicalities of this, for example setting employees up with sufficient IT equipment. You can download the full London 2012 advice for business here

Transport for London have also produced maps and data showing the likely impact of the Olympics on London’s transport network, including information on which stations will be most badly affected and when. You can download the full station impact information from here

If employees are unable to get to work during the Olympics because of travel disruption, or if they are severely delayed, you will need to decide upon a consistent approach to pay.

EEF’s advice is that employees are not usually entitled to pay when they can’t come to work. Withholding pay does not amount to an unlawful deduction from wages because there is no general right to receive wages in the first place if no work is being performed. That said, you may have established contractual arrangements which do allow for pay in these sorts of situations, for example in contracts, handbooks or as a result of previous custom and practice. Also, employees may well be disgruntled if they have tried their best to come to work and may expect your approach to be consistent with similar situations e.g. travel disruption (and school closures) during the heavy snow. (See our briefing on the heavy snowfall during 2009)

One final practical tip from an EEF member company is to check that you have up to date mobile phone and contact details for workers who may be affected by travel disruption.

Making deliveries and visiting customers

You may not be based in London but have scheduled deliveries to, visits to, or sales appointments with customers in London during the Olympics.

Line managers will need to plan work to take account of the likely disruption and general access difficulties during the Olympics. The information published by Transport for London about road congestion may be useful – it can be downloaded from here:

If you need to cancel deliveries or sales visits, check if this will have a knock-on effect on employee pay.

Gifts and corporate hospitality

Might your business be offering or receiving Olympics tickets or corporate hospitality during the Games? If so, then remember that this is the first major sporting event since the new Bribery Act came into force and that lavish or disproportionate gifts and corporate hospitality can, in some cases, fall foul of the new law.

You may have already tightened up your rules on gifts and corporate hospitality, in which case you will need to ensure that you are following those new rules. If you have not yet implemented a policy, you can download EEF’s model policy here.


With thanks to the EEF member companies who kindly shared their plans.

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Media Team 020 7654 1576

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