Last reviewed 28 July 2022

On 28 July 2022, the XXII Commonwealth Games will start with a bang at an opening ceremony at Alexander stadium. With 1.2 million tickets sold and action taking place across 15 West Midland (and one London) venues, involving 6500 athletes and 72 teams, these games set to be a thrilling round up of the best sporting talent in the Commonwealth. But what has this got to do with businesses and HR specifically?

There are going to be a number of HR considerations for employers during the Commonwealth Games this summer, as well as for the women’s Euro’s finals, which falls during them. Employers will always have the same concerns whenever major sporting events roll around as unauthorised absences, reduced productivity and employee misconduct could stand to cause considerable issues in the workplace.

Below, we set out some of the issues you may face, and how to “tackle” them.

Travel disruption

Those with tickets to see events at the games are being given a free train ticket within the West Midlands area. This is a fantastic opportunity to show off public transport in the region but is going to mean additional travellers, impacting those using these services for commuting.

Due to the disruption extra passengers can cause, those reliant on public transport are going to need to plan ahead, by either adjusting their travel times, working from home or another location, using up banked TOIL or taking some time off work to enjoy what’s happening in their area.

Increased customers

Few businesses would complain about having a busy period. However, we are at the start of the summer holidays, and many are taking some time away from work for holidays and to spend time with their friends and family. As such, there may be reduced staffing levels within business that see a sudden surge, thanks to business brought in by the games.

Hopefully, plans were already in place for this. However, for businesses caught out they will need to consider what they can do to manage this. This could be by refusing any new holiday requests that come in, asking for volunteers for overtime (where staff have not already worked excessive hours and to do so would not be a detriment on their wellbeing), using casual or agency staff or re-arranging shifts (by agreement).

Employees wanting to watch events

Employers will need to manage this carefully, as there may be many wanting to watch, and the decision for who does get to watch should be made fairly. It may be that it is possible to show events during work and allow staff to time their breaks around particular events, or some may ask to work at different times in order to see their favourite athletes.

For those wanting to take time off, processes for submitting annual leave requests should be clearly outlined in company policies and employees should be reminded of these rules. This may cause frustration for those wanting annual leave for different reasons, so processes must be applied fairly.

Employers may find it useful to inform staff that attendance levels will be monitored throughout the period of the games, to deter those who may be thinking of taking a day off anyway. Employees should be aware that any unauthorised absences will be classed as a form of misconduct, resulting in disciplinary procedures if this occurs.

Employers should consider embracing the games at work and use this as a way of developing a greater sense of morale and camaraderie. Attendance at work can be encouraged by holding themed events to coincide with the games, such as fancy dress, food or lunch-time games, and live notification of any results.

Employees engaging in “banter”

The games feature teams from many countries. With many businesses having diverse workforces, there are likely to be several employees of different nationalities represented at the games. Whilst this can lead to light-hearted rivalry, careful monitoring needs to be in place to ensure no offence is caused, as this can be an emotive topic.

To avoid the potential for discrimination or harassment, employers should be careful to treat all employees in the same way regardless of their nationality. Showing preference to one employee’s request over another could potentially lead to claims of favouritism or even discrimination. Employers should also ensure that the workplace remains free from banter between fans that could qualify as harassment or discrimination, through reminders of rules in place.

Managing alcohol

Alcohol and sporting events, for many, go hand in hand. In a work context, it can be having a few too many the night before work celebrating (or commiserating) the results, or going to watch an event at a place where alcohol is served before work. Both instances have the potential for disrupting work, either by the employee attending under the influence or failing to come in at all.

A clear alcohol policy can be relied on here, notifying employees of the expectations on them and warning them that breaking these rules could lead to disciplinary action. If a policy is already in place, now is an opportunity to remind staff of this. If there is not, then now would be the ideal time to introduce one, ensuring that is fresh in all employee’s minds as the sporting events continue.

Next steps

This is a time of celebration of sporting achievement and has the potential for creating a positive atmosphere in the workplace. To avoid negative behaviours, a sporting events policy can be used to manage employee behaviour during this time, either by reminding staff of their obligations at work or informing them of any workplace rules that will be relaxed for the duration of the games.