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Are Hospitals And Doctors Prepared For The Upcoming Olympics?

The Olympics, the world's largest sporting event, which starts on July 27, is a reminder for medical and dental practices to ensure they are adequately prepared in terms of staffing and transport issues.

It is crucial that preparations are already underway in light of the additional influx of visitors in London, with over 14,000 competing athletes from around the world and 10.8 million available tickets to see the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the rising anticipation across the country before the games, the UK-wide medical and dental defense organization MDDUS urges practices to be prepared for any disruptions during the Games. According to MDDUS in-house employment law adviser Janice Sibbald, it is not too late to ensure that practices are ready to cope with any potential challenges to safeguard a smooth run during the Games.

She states:

"Although the Olympics are fast approaching, there is still time to prepare your practice for any eventualities. One important first step is to clarify the staffing needs of the practice and ensure policies are up-to-date, especially those on absence, holidays and flexible working. If your practice is situated near a Games venue or a travel hotspot, then this may have an adverse impact and present challenges to employees and patients. There will be unprecedented pressure on transport services, with travel to and from the practice likely to be disrupted. Staff may be able to reduce any non-essential travel during peak hours or flexible working arrangements may be introduced for the duration of the Games."

Sibbald adds that some employees may have already requested to take time off during the event, whilst others may even be working as volunteers and practices should therefore be prepared that they may be asked for 'last-minute' time off as the Olympic fever builds.

She recommends: "If an employee is requesting annual leave, as a minimum 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, so to request two days' leave they need to give four days' notice. However, there may be different provisions set out in your contract or holiday policy and these should be adhered to. While it is in the practice's best interests to try and be accommodating to any requests during the Games, if the request cannot be accepted, the employee should receive counter notice of the refusal as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. In the absence of any practice policy on the matter, the counter notice must be given at least one day in advance for every day of leave requested, i.e. two days' counter notice if refusing a request for two days' annual leave."

Practice managers should also consider that they might encounter a loss of productivity during certain events in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sibbald continues:

"Practices should be alert to the possibility of employees trying to watch lengthy coverage at work on TV, smart phones or on their computers. Again, it may be that flexible working arrangements are agreed for the short-term. For example, it may be possible to allow some flexible working during high-profile events such as a final in track and field or an event where British hopes of a medal are high. Of course, this can only be done if the staffing levels allow. There will be employees who have no interest at all in the Olympics and it is essential for the practice to consider this so that managers are not left open to accusations of showing favoritism towards those who are interested in the Games."

Sibbald's final advice is: "It's not just the athletes that need to prepare ahead of the Olympics, practices can ensure things go smoothly off the track as well as on it." 

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