Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 16th 2016 Contents BG10 OLYMPICS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 16 • 2016
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Few events garner as much
worldwide attention and engen-
der as much excitement as the
Olympic Games. With the 2016
games almost upon us, many
Trinis are about to catch a seri-
ous case of "Olympic fever". Unfortunately for
employers, symptoms may include absenteeism,
distraction and reduced productivity.
Here are some tips for managing the impact
of the Olympics in your workplace.
Requests for time off:
Employers may be faced with an increase
in requests for time off. As a general principle,
vacation leave or time off is seen as an earned
benefit that an employee is entitled to once
he has put in an agreed amount of service.
The scheduling of time off is, however, generally
subject to approval by the employer. In deciding
when an employee may schedule time off, an
employer can properly have regard to its general
operational requirements. However, it should,
as far as is practicable, also consider the personal
wishes of the employee.
An employer that wishes to proactively man-
age any anticipated increase in requests for
time off should first consider whether there
is any existing policy or clause in the employ-
ment contract which may govern such requests.
An early reminder to employees about the
terms of any relevant policy or clause, that
requests for time off are subject to the oper-
ational requirements of the business and
encouragement to apply for time off as early
as possible can help to create realistic expec-
tations, prevent disappointment and mitigate
against a flood of last-minute requests. As an
alternative, employers can also consider whether
it is feasible to offer flexitime to employees,
provided that they make up the time later.
Lateness and absenteeism:
Employees may be tempted to "call in sick"
so they can watch an event, or may be late or
absent from work because they are nursing a
hangover after a night spent celebrating or
drowning sorrows. This can have a negative
impact on productivity.
An employer will be in a better position to
pro-actively manage unscheduled absences or
late-coming where this is governed by a policy
or dealt with in the employment contract.
Additionally, an employer can try to reduce
of risk of employees disingenuously calling in
sick by requiring employees to phone in to
their supervisor within a certain period of their
scheduled start time if they anticipate being
late or absent from work and by requiring
employees to produce a medical certificate if
the absence exceeds a specified period.
Can an employer discipline employees for
unscheduled absences or tardiness?
The short answer is "yes." However, good
industrial relations practice requires employers
to adopt a proportional and progressive
approach to discipline. Termination for absen-
teeism or tardiness is generally only justifiable
where the employee has shown a persistent
pattern of such behaviour and has been warned
by the employer and given an opportunity to
improve, but has failed to do so. A single
unscheduled absence or late arrival is, in and
of itself, unlikely to be sufficient grounds to
Monitoring Internet usage:
Even if employees are physically present at
work, they may be strongly tempted to watch
events or keep up with the latest news online.
Not only can this be a powerful distraction for
the employees in question (and their neigh-
bours) but it can also put a drain on the employ-
er s resources.
Whether or not an employer can monitor
an employee s internet usage depends, in part,
on whether the device in question belongs to
the employer or the employee. In any case,
however, there is a risk that an employer could
be accused of invasion of privacy.
In order to mitigate against this risk, employ-
ers should ideally have a policy or make pro-
vision in the employment contract which clearly
sets out what is or is not permitted. In order
to limit distractions, employers may also con-
sider blocking certain Web sites.
Disciplinary action can be taken against an
employee who breaches any applicable policy
or clause of the employment contract, according
to the requirements of good industrial relations
Employees may want to organise an office
betting pool. While this may seem harmless,
there is a general prohibition under the Gam-
bling and Betting Act against conducting pool
betting operations without a betting officer s
licence. Pool betting, as defined under the act,
essentially refers to situations in which bettors
each contribute a sum which is pooled into a
pot that the winner receives. Other activities
which do not fall within this definition may
be allowed. Disciplinary action can be taken
against employees who commit any prohibited
acts, provided that it is in keeping with good
industrial relations practice.
Don't forget the positives!
The Olympics can provide a wonderful
opportunity to connect with staff, build team
spirit and improve morale. Small gestures like
allowing flexitime, arranging for staff to watch
select events on a communal television or sim-
ply spending a few minutes chatting about the
latest news can have a positive effect on work-
Catherine Ramnarine, is the partner in
the dispute and risk management team at
Hamel Smith Co Ltd.
Stay ahead of the game
Impact of Olympics at your workplace
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