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The Olympic Games - Rio 2016

Olympic track The Olympic Games take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between 5th and 21st of August 2016. There are a record number of countries taking part in a record number of sports. Big sporting events, like the Olympics, can present a number of dilemmas for organisations who might be worried about the impact on productivity or the after effect of lively celebrations.

Employers should start planning as soon as possible to reduce the impact that the Games could have on their business. Employers might want to consult with employees to gauge the level of interest in the games, have open communications about suggested changes to working practices which balance staff requests with the needs of the business, and minimise any potential impact on productivity.

Key points

  • Requests for annual leave could be higher as the Games occur in the summer holiday period.
  • There could be an increase in the use of the internet and social media during working hours.
  • Organisational absence policies will still apply.


Whether or not employers currently have flexible working practices in the business, it may be something to consider, even as a short-term measure, during the period of the Olympic Games.

One option that may be agreeable would be to have a more flexible working day, when employees may come in a little later or finish earlier, and then agree when this time can be made up.

Allowing staff to listen to or watch some events may be another possible option. It may also be possible to allow staff to take a break during popular events.

Managers should, however, bear in mind the need to be fair and consistent with all staff when allowing additional flexibility during the Olympic period.

Time off

Employees who wish to take time off work around the time of games should book annual leave in the normal way, as set out in the company handbook/policy. Leave should be booked well in advance of the event, although during the games the company may, at its discretion, consider late requests for time off work.

Employers can keep leave policies simple, perhaps adopting a 'first come, first served' policy for booking leave, but it may help to draw up some guidelines.

Some employees may want to travel to Rio to watch the games, however, they should remember not to book flights until 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 at GOV.UK - Foreign travel advice for Brazil. Employees should also be aware that they may experience travel delays or suffer jet lag when they are back in the UK so should return in plenty of time so their work doesn't suffer.

Employers should try to be fair and consistent when allowing time off, and remember not everyone is a sporting fan. When considering requests don't forget any temporary changes to rules and policies should be transparent and non-discriminatory.

Employers may also need to consider those who have no plans to take time off during the Games but may either:

  • hope to watch some TV or internet coverage while at work or may wish to discuss some sort of temporary flexible working arrangement
  • get fed up with all the fuss and any perceived favouritism shown to those with sporting interests.

Manage attendance

Organisations' sickness policies will still apply during this time; this policy should be operated fairly and consistently for all staff. Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the associated policy. Any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could result in formal proceedings; this could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness or late attendance. This should be communicated to staff.

Use of social networking and websites

Employers may see an increase in staff watching lengthy coverage via their computers or personal devices. Why not plan for popular sporting events in advance - perhaps giving staff access to a TV during agreed times?

Employers may wish to remind staff of any policies regarding the use of social networking and websites during working hours.

Drinking policies

Any employee found to be under the influence of alcohol could be subject to disciplinary procedures. Employees should be reminded of any alcohol policy as many people like to have a drink while watching sporting events.

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