With the Olympics less than a year away, employers should start thinking about writing a specific Olympics policy to deal with requests for leave as well as any unauthorised absences.
Any policy written needs to handle issues such as flexible working, timescales for requesting leave, a process for controlling just how many people you want off work at any one time, how declines are decided and how you'll deal with unauthorised absences. Indeed the latter point, if addressed correctly, will setup employee expectations so that, for example, they know that medical evidence will be required following an absence.
It's also worth building a section into the policy that deals with discrimination; it's quite likely that nationalism will rear its head during the Olympics and employers can be liable for discrimination in the workplace.
Remember that requests for holiday may be refused on business grounds as long as you are acting in good faith and are being as consistently as possible. You should also seek advice about your rights and obligations where employees want to be one of the 70,000 volunteers at the Games.
Lastly it wouldn't hurt to tell employees about any concessions you intend to make, such as television coverage in the workplace. But lay down clear rules about managing workload and any restrictions on watching internet coverage of the games.
If you do need more information, ACAS can help with free information www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3401.
This was first published in October 2011