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200 days to go - Acas helps employers prepare for the Olympics 2012

Monday 09 January 2012

With around 200 days to go until the Olympics, workplace experts Acas advise employers to avoid any last-minute hurdles by preparing for staff being away from work.

Employers should start talking to employees now who are volunteering during the 2012 Games to manage expectations and minimise the impact on workplace productivity.

Q Three of my staff have got volunteer positions at the Olympics. I can only let one go. What's the best way of handling this?

A The key to avoiding potential misunderstanding or conflict is to have a clear policy in advance and communicate this to all staff - that way, everyone knows where they stand and you look after your business needs. Your policy need not be very complicated - a simple process of 'first come, first served' may be enough.

Q I have a member of staff who has got a volunteer place at the Olympics. Do they need to use their own holiday?

A Employees have no legal right to take time off for volunteering. You can decide to give paid or unpaid time off or, if not, the employee may wish to take annual leave. Many employers encourage their employees to volunteer to help develop their skills and give employees an agreed quota of paid days leave per year to volunteer - typically, about two days a year.

Q I have a member of staff who has got a volunteer place at the Olympics. Am I expected to pay for them while they volunteer?

A There is no legal right to be paid for volunteering. Volunteering is something employees often do because of their own interest, but increasingly employers are recognising the business benefits of volunteering - in terms of developing skills and supporting the local community. If your employee is taking special leave then it would be up to you to decide whether that will be paid or unpaid.

Acas Chief Executive John Taylor said:

    "We're finally on the home straight to the 2012 Olympics and employers should have 
    plans for managing employees' involvement whether volunteering or those watching 
    the events."

Acas guidance on everything from flexible working to holidays, time off and managing attendance can be found at: www.acas.org.uk/olympics

Notes for editors

1) Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.

2) Acas has designed a training course for employers that gives guidance on the issues they may need to think through arising from the London 2012 Games such as planning staff holidays, working from home, and coping with difficult journeys to work. Details of the course and guidance on these and other issues can be found at www.acas.org.uk/olympics

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