Olympics – high spirits and national loyalties
Employment Law & HR update 13/06/2012
With under 50 days to go until the Olympics start, many
businesses will have plans in place for handling issues like staff
absence, travel to work and logistical problems. But, as part of
their planning, employers should take a look at their policies on
workplace bullying and harassment.
The Olympics is a competitive event. People from many nations
will be taking part. Modern workplaces are made up of people of
different nationalities and ethnic and national origins, and of
course it’s only human nature for people to want “their” team to
But employers need to be on guard to prevent natural high
spirits and competitiveness as the Games progress becoming
something more unpleasant. What might be ultra-competitive
behaviour to one person might be seen as bullying and harassment to
Why do employers need to be alert?
Under equality laws, discrimination and harassment on the
grounds of a person’s race is unlawful. This includes treatment by
reason of nationality and ethnic or national origins.
Employers can be ordered to pay unlimited compensation if racial
harassment takes place in their workplace.
How can I plan for high spirits in the
- Start by looking at the make-up of your workforce. Which
nationalities are represented in your workplace?
- Check you have a policy on bullying and harassment. Read it and
make sure any supervisors and managers have read it too
- Ensure managers and supervisors know what to do if they witness
bullying and harassment or if they have complaints reported to
- Make sure staff are aware of your policy on bullying and
harassment, including how to make a complaint under the
What do I do if I get a complaint of bullying
- You should take all complaints of bullying and harassment
- Ensure your supervisors and line managers understand how they
should deal with complaints of bullying and harassment
- Deal with all complaints according to your bullying, harassment
or grievance procedures
- Take advice from the Mentor Telephone Advice Service.
Is there anything else to look out for?
There are potential problems for employers who provide listening
or viewing facilities for staff.
Employers need to take care not to treat people of different
nationalities differently, by giving rights or privileges to one
part of the workforce that could cause resentment in another.
For example, if you decide to allow Team GB supporters to
display flags in the workplace or to watch a TV to see an event
where Team GB has a high hope of a medal, bear in mind that
non-British workers in your workplace might have the same
expectation where there is an event in which their team stands a
chance of success.
It’s also important to set boundaries of acceptable behaviour,
so take very great care if you do arrange viewing or listening
facilities, because you might be seen to be encouraging behaviour
which some employees might find hostile or intimidating.
For details on how
Mentor could help your
business in situations like this and many others, contact us today. If you
already subscribe to Mentor, please call the Advice
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