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27 July markeone year to the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Employers should not underestimate the impact the Games will have on their business but those who plan well will earn some easy employee relations points and save management time otherwise spent in disciplinary meetings or even at the employment tribunal!

1) Start planning

  • Early planning will enable businesses to exploit commercial advantage from a Global audience in London rather than reacting to disputes and disruption in the workplace.
  • Employers should review their policies and contracts of employment, particularly the clauses relating to hours and place of work, these should ideally be flexible enough to introduce temporary change without having to get consent from employees.
  • Those with an established Business Continuity Plan in place should review this and consider building upon it to deal with possible Olympic disruptions, such as breaches of security, failures of I.T networks or a severe breakdown in the transport system.

2) Managing annual leave

  • Demand for annual leave is likely to be high next summer. Forming a realistic plan now of minimum staffing requirements during the Games will avoid short staffing problems.
  • A well drafted holiday policy should deal with scenarios where more leave has been requested than can be granted.
  • Employers should tell staff at an early stage how they intend to deal with applications for leave as this will avoid last minute disappointment. Disgruntled employees may be appeased if they know that key events will be shown live at the office (see below).
  • Will employees be required to use their annual leave if they have been selected as volunteers? If employers do allow exceptional (paid or unpaid) leave, they should communicate the policy clearly, ensure consistent treatment and ensure that the policy is stated to apply for volunteers at the 2012 Olympics only.

3) Flexible working patterns

  • Employers will need to be creative and flexible to ensure that staff can still carry out their duties and business is not adversely affected. The Games also present an ideal opportunity to ‘trial run’ changes to working patterns before you consider more permanent changes.
  • Employers could consider introducing temporary flexible working patterns so that staff can start early/ late in order to watch or attend key events.
  • Remote working (where employees work from home or from an office outside London) may be a solution to congestion problems and travel delays. 

4) Predicting and preventing problems

  • High levels of absenteeism are common during large scale sporting events. Employers should communicate their policies in advance and consider sending an email reminder of their absence and disciplinary policies closer to the Games.
  • Employers should avoid jumping to conclusions as this can destroy trust. If employers do decide to invoke their disciplinary policy this must be followed consistently.

5) Internet use

  • Staff may want to watch live events via the internet. Employers may consider relaxing their I.T policies temporarily to allow for this or if they have adequate facilities, key events could be shown live on a large screen in the office.
  • Surges in internet and phone networks will impose additional stresses on your local networks- employers should have a back up plan in place just in case their systems crash.

6) Beware discrimination and harassment claims

  • With a multi national events and workforce employers should beware giving (or being seen to give) Team GB supporters priority over non-Team GB supporters.
  • Employers should check that their employees have received training on equal opportunities and harassment.

In summary…

  • Establish clear policies and communicate these in advance – these will avoid reactive responses to difficult situations.
  • Whether employers choose to relax some of their rules or enforce them as normal during the Games, they should ensure that their approach is consistent.
  • Early planning is key!


Laura Evans is an employment lawyer at Fox Williams LLP and can be contacted for more information about this article at

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