Get ready and let the Games begin

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release: Monday, 30 June 2014

Medical and dental practices are urged to take steps now to avoid any potential staff issues during the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The Games, which runs from July 23 until August 3, will be broadcast to a global audience of around 1.5 billion people, with more than a million tickets sold for the events across the city as Glasgow gears up for a celebration of sport and culture.

After the overwhelming success of the Olympic Games in London two years ago, anticipation is building with some of the world’s top athletes across 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth set to embark on Glasgow – including the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt.

UK-wide medical and dental defence organisation MDDUS is urging practices to be prepared for any staff disruptions during the festivities by having appropriate policies in place.

“Organisers and athletes have been preparing for months or even years to be ready for the Commonwealth Games,” says MDDUS employment law adviser Liz Symon. “But with the Games less than a month away, it’s not too late for practices to take steps to minimise disruptions.

“Practices may find a number of employees will be looking for time off to attend the event. The Games also coincides with peak holiday season so it is vital to ensure requests for time off are handled fairly.

“As a first step, practices should identify their staffing needs and ensure relevant policies are up-to-date, especially those on absence and holidays.

“Employees may request time off to attend events or to work as a volunteer, but there is no legal obligation to grant these requests. It would be advisable to ask employees now if any of them wish to take time off so you can start planning for their absence.”

Some options to consider for employees who plan to attend/volunteer at the Games include:

• Taking annual leave

• Making up time at later date

• Allowing flexible working during the Games

• Granting special leave – paid or unpaid

• A combination of the above

“Under employment law terms, there is no obligation to give paid time off unless there is something in the contract that states this will be granted, which is unlikely,” adds Symon.

“If an employee is requesting annual leave, the practice must comply with its obligations under Working Time Regulations. For every day of holiday required, employees should give employers at least twice as much notice. There may be different provisions set out in your contract or holiday policy and these should be adhered to.

“If the practice cannot accommodate the request, the employee should receive counter notice of the refusal as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

“If you have a number of employees competing for time off, this may already be covered in the practice’s holiday policy. If not, then you can deal with the requests on a ‘lottery’ basis and pick names out of a hat to ensure fairness.

“It is important to avoid any allegations of unfair or discriminatory action by being consistent, transparent and thinking about how you will manage annual leave requests.”

Another important issue for practices to consider is unauthorised absences which may be higher than normal during the Games. “Any cases of suspected unauthorised absence should be handled as a misconduct issue and dealt with in accordance with the practice's disciplinary procedure,” says Symon.

“For clarity, both disciplinary and absence procedures should state that unauthorised absence will constitute misconduct that is likely to lead to disciplinary proceedings.”

Practices should also be alert to the possibility of employees trying to watch lengthy coverage at work on TV or on their computers or smartphones.

“It is worth advising staff that this is not acceptable and those who want to watch the Games may request to alter their hours on a temporary basis,” says Symon. “Practices will need to consider what flexible working arrangements are in place and if this can be accommodated in the short term.

“There will be employees who have no interest at all in the Games and it is essential for the practice to consider this so that managers are not left open to accusations of showing favouritism towards those who are interested.”

Our advice for doctors and dentists working as volunteers at the Games can be found here

Ends

For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email rihendry@mddus.com.

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK. For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.