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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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One third of UK businesses have no staff contingency plans for Olympics

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Although the vast majority of UK organisations recognise that this summer’s Olympic Games will be disruptive in workforce terms, almost a third have yet to develop basic contingency plans to cope.

A survey of 1,200 public and private sector organisations across the country undertaken by BT revealed that 29% had failed to consider how they would deal with the disruption caused by a fall in staff attendance and productivity as well as employee transport and supply chain problems.
 
But with less than 200 days to go until the two-week event kicks off on 27 July, the research suggests that if companies do not prepare themselves, they could miss out on the potential financial benefits gained from a spike in demand for goods and services from the one million expected overseas visitors.
 
Geoffrey Mead, a partner at law firm Eversheds, said: “Clarifying the likely staffing needs of the business, refining or developing clear staff policies, especially those dealing with absence procedures, as well as ensuring they are communicated clearly to staff, will go a long way towards avoiding many of the short-term problems that could arise.”
 
Such policies included reviewing and possibly temporarily altering how holiday requests would be handled and how much leave the organisation could reasonably accommodate.
 
“If demand exceeds availability, consider what alternative options might mitigate the effect for disappointed staff. In some cases, organisations will be expecting an increase in work and may not be in a position to allow any holiday requests at this time,” Mead added.
 
Labour provider checks
 
But HM Revenue & Customs has also issued a warning that employers planning to take on temporary staff during the Games must undertake thorough checks of their labour providers and employment agencies or risk possible prosecution.
 
The taxman said that businesses were at risk of unknowingly hiring workers who were in the UK illegally or were earning less than the National Minimum Wage, which could lead to a costly HMRC investigation, damaged reputation and legal action.
 
Marie-Claire Uhart, HMRC’s director of specialist investigations, said that the organisation had found “problems with fraud and unpaid taxes in the labour provider field and this might increase as companies employ more casual labour for the Games. HMRC routinely tackles attempts to defraud the Exchequer, including the use of false invoices and hijacked VAT registrations”.
 
Firms that used labour providers could help prevent such forms of tax abuse by being alert, undertaking checks and asking the right questions, she added.
 
Possible checks included:
 
  1. Checking directors’ identities by asking for passports
  2. Ask for copies of the supplier’s Certificate of Incorporation, VAT registration certificate and Gangmaster Licensing Authority licence
  3. Verify VAT registration details with HMRC before using a given supplier
  4. Ask for their bank details.
 
Possible questions included:
  1. Do they have a GLA licence and Employers’ Liability Insurance?
  2. Is it a live firm on the Companies House register and have I visited their trading premises?
  3. Do they obtain workers from other labour providers or are you making payments to a third party, for example, a factoring agent? And if so, why?
  4. Are their proposed fees realistic, enabling them to meet statutory NMW and tax obligations and still make a profit?
 
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett
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