Policy on staff volunteering for the Olympic Games

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When to use this model volunteering policy

Use this model policy to explain how your organisation will support employees who wish to do volunteer work for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Policy wording

Introduction

The London 2012 Olympic Games (on the London 2012 website) run from 27 July 2012 until 12 August 2012, while the London 2012 Paralympic Games run from 29 August 2012 to 9 September 2012.

The London Olympics provide a unique opportunity for individuals in the UK, including staff at this organisation, to do volunteer work as a member of the “Games Maker” volunteer team (on the London 2012 website), which is recruiting 70,000 volunteers for the Games. As well as generalist roles, there are also specialist roles in which employees may be able to make use of their particular skills, such as first-aid training.

The Olympic Games volunteering programme also provides some unusual challenges for the Company as an employer. For example, employees who volunteer for both the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will need to take at least 20 days off work in a short period of time in summer 2012.

It is therefore important that employees read this guidance if they are considering volunteering, or have volunteered, for the Olympic Games.

Why the Company provides support for volunteers

The Company supports employees who wish to do volunteer work during the Olympic Games because we recognise that volunteers from the Company can improve how it is perceived and that there are benefits for London and the UK in staging a successful Games.

Employees who do volunteer work during the Olympic Games can use the skills that they have developed at work to:

  • help the community and local area;
  • learn new skills, for example leadership qualities; and
  • improve their morale, physical health and breadth of experience outside work.

Volunteering for the Olympic Games

There are two types of volunteering role, which are:

  • specialist (for example, doctors, nurses, sports specialists, doping control officers and press operations staff) and
  • generalist (for example, stewards, radio operators or athlete escorts).

Employees who volunteer for a “Games Maker” role have until 27 October 2010 to apply. Applications will be reviewed from the end of November 2010, although applicants are not expected to find out if they have been successful until the last three months of 2011.

Applicants must be able to attend a 30-minute face-to-face interview at a selection event prior to being chosen (from February 2011 to February 2012). Successful applicants will need to attend at least three training sessions prior to the Games (from February 2012 onwards).

Games Makers must be available for the duration of the Olympic Games (27 July 2012 to 12 August 2012) or the Paralympic Games (29 August 2012 to 9 September 2012). They must volunteer for a minimum of 10 days at either the Olympic Games or the Paralympic Games, or for a minimum of 20 days if they want to volunteer at both.

Informing the Company that you have applied

It is a good idea for employees to inform their line manager that they have applied for a Games Maker role. This means that the employee can discuss with his/her line manager at an early stage how the Company can support him/her in carrying out the volunteer work during the Games.

Employees should inform their managers that they have applied for a Games Maker role if their role would require them to be away from work for more than [10] working days for the duration of the Games (ie from 27 July 2012 to 9 September 2012).

It is particularly important that employees who apply for volunteer roles for both the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games inform their manager, so that discussions can take place as to whether or not a request for time off to attend both can realistically be accommodated. The application process states that individuals who apply for both must be available for a minimum of 20 days.

Requests for time off to attend a selection event or training session

Employees who apply for a Games Maker role will be expected to use a day out of their normal holiday entitlement to attend the required interview at a selection event. In addition, successful applicants will be expected to use their normal holiday entitlement to attend the required training sessions prior to the Games.

All holiday dates must be approved in advance by [name of individual/the employee’s line manager]. It is important that employees follow the usual procedure for requesting holiday, which is that [they must give notice to the Company that is at least twice the period of leave that is being requested]. The Company will endeavour to agree to such requests, but reserves the right to turn down requests [if it gives the employee notice that is equivalent to the period of leave requested].

To avoid disappointment, employees should apply for holiday as soon as possible after they are informed that they are required to attend a selection event or training sessions.

Requests for time off for volunteering work during the Games

Employees who successfully apply for a Games Maker role will be expected to use days out of their normal 2012 holiday entitlement to do volunteering work during the Games.

[OR

Employees who successfully apply for a Games Maker role will be given extra [paid/unpaid] leave to cover half the number of days that they are using to do volunteering work during the Games. For example, if an employee is doing volunteering work for [10] days, he/she will be able to take [five] days’ holiday out of his/her normal holiday entitlement, but will be given an extra [five] days’ [paid/unpaid] leave to complete the volunteering assignment.

This offer is available only to employees who provide evidence that they have been chosen as a volunteer (for example, a letter or email from the London 2012 Games Maker programme) at the time when they are booking holiday for the purpose of doing their volunteering work.]

All holiday dates must be approved in advance by [name of individual/the employee’s line manager]. It is important that employees follow the usual procedure for requesting holiday, which is that [they must give notice to the Company notice that is at least twice the period of leave that is being requested]. The Company will endeavour to agree to such requests, but reserves the right to turn down requests [if it gives the employee notice that is equivalent to the period of leave requested].

To avoid disappointment, employees should apply for holiday as soon as possible after they are informed that they have been successful in their application for a Games Maker role.

[Carry over of holiday

Employees who successfully apply for a Games Maker role should be aware that the Company [allows employees to carry over holiday from the previous leave year/is operating a one-off scheme to allow employees to carry over holiday entitlement from the holiday year running from [1 January 2011] to [31 December 2011] into the holiday year running from [1 January 2012] to [31 December 2012] to volunteer during the Olympic Games]. The Company allows a maximum of [five] days’ holiday to be carried over from one holiday year to the next with the prior [written] approval of [name of individual/the employee’s line manager]. ]

[“Buying” holiday

Employees who successfully apply for a Games Maker role should be aware that the Company [operates a scheme to allow employees to “buy” extra holiday entitlement/is operating a one-off scheme to allow volunteering employees to buy extra holiday entitlement during the Olympic Games], up to a maximum of [five] days. An employee who wishes to buy extra holiday entitlement to volunteer during the Olympic Games must apply in writing to [name of individual/his/her line manager/the HR department] no later than [31 January 2012]. The purchase of extra holiday will result in a reduction in the employee’s pay during 2012. [Employees should refer to the Company’s separate policy on buying and selling holiday and can also contact [name of individual/the HR department] for more information.] ]

[Volunteering days

Employees who successfully apply for a Games Maker role should be aware that the Company [operates a volunteering scheme/is operating a one-off scheme for volunteering during the Olympic Games]. This allows employees to [have extra [paid/unpaid] leave up to a maximum of [five] days [per year] to carry out work on the project/work flexible hours]. [Employees should refer to the Company’s separate volunteering policy and can also contact [name of individual/the HR department] for more information.] ]

Unauthorised absence

The Company will treat any instances of unauthorised leave (for example, feigning illness to attend a selection event, training session or the Games themselves) as a serious disciplinary matter that could result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. Employees should be aware that, if they take a period of leave that has not been approved, they will be subject to disciplinary action upon their return to work.

Law relating to this document

Leading statutory authority

Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833)

The Working Time Regulations 1998 give workers 5.6 weeks’ annual leave, although employers can offer a better contractual holiday entitlement or provide flexible holiday initiatives. There is nothing to stop an employer letting employees buy extra holiday for a special purpose such as allowing them to volunteer during the Olympic Games taking place in London in 2012.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that, in the absence of any provision in the contract, a worker wishing to take holiday should give notice to the employer that is equal to twice the number of days’ leave that he or she wishes to take. The Regulations also allow the employer to veto the holiday dates requested provided that it gives notice equal to the number of days requested that the worker cannot be absent on those particular days.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 expressly ban the carrying over to another holiday year of four weeks’ statutory leave. While four weeks’ statutory leave must still be taken during the year in which the worker is entitled to it, some or all of the additional statutory holiday entitlement can be carried over, as long as a “relevant agreement” provides for this. Additional statutory holiday entitlement that is carried over must be used in the following leave year.

A relevant agreement for the purposes of agreeing to the carrying over of the additional statutory holiday is:

  • a workforce agreement that applies to the worker;
  • a provision of a collective agreement that forms part of a contract between the worker and the employer; or
  • any other agreement in writing that is legally enforceable between the worker and the employer.

Employers may face an unusually large number of holiday requests in summer 2012, due to the combination of employees’ making their normal summer holiday requests and employees wanting time off to volunteer or simply attend the Games as a spectator. Where a large number of staff request holiday leave around the same time, it may be impracticable for the employer to grant all of the requests. The employer would be advised to discuss the matter with the employees and/or their representatives in advance with the aim of reaching agreement on how this can best be managed. The objective should be to establish a fair system for granting leave that meets the needs of the business.

Notes

There are numerous reasons for an employer to support or encourage employees doing volunteer work. The employer may wish to improve the area in which it is based (this policy will be particularly relevant to employers in London) or contribute to the local economy (a study by the East of England Development Agency (PDF format, 3MB) has estimated that the economic gain to the East of England from the London Olympics could exceed £600 million).

The company may be particularly closely connected with the London Olympics or a specific project connected with it (for example, it may be providing sponsorship or could be a construction firm that has done work on Olympic venues). It may therefore wish to support the Games.

Volunteering can also enhance the reputation and image of the organisation. Further objectives may be encouraging staff development, improving leadership and team work, and boosting morale, all of which are likely to increase staff retention levels.

Some employers therefore run volunteering schemes that help employees to volunteer, for example by providing them with several days’ extra leave to carry out volunteering work on external projects. Employers may also wish to run a one-off scheme for the London Olympics.

This is a good example of how employers and employees can benefit from having flexible holiday schemes. Examples include allowing employees to save up holiday for a special reason (for example, by carrying over some days from their 2011 entitlement) or buy extra holiday in return for a reduction in their pay.

Warning

It is important to make sure that any employee who has applied to buy extra holiday entitlement has signed a document indicating his or her express consent to any reduction in pay. If no signature is obtained, the employer could leave itself open to a claim for unlawful deductions from wages.

Future developments

None.

Related documents on XpertHR

The following documents are available to XpertHR subscribers, further assisting your approach on this issue:

Policy on sporting and other special events
Policy on supporting employees doing volunteer work
Policy on buying and selling holiday

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