This summer brings Olympic mania to London, hopefully. And whilst there are many hopes for what this could do to boost our economy, employers need to think about how the Olympics might affect their business.

According to BT's Race to the Line Survey, 87% of private sector firms and 65% of public sector organisations believe that they will experience some disruption, such as staff absence, during the Olympics and Paralympics.


Experts point to congestion as a key disrupter for employees getting into work on time, if at all. Since the city will hopefully experience a peak in tourism during the Olympics, there will be increased difficultly for members of staff who commute into work. Waiting for a tube train will probably take longer given the increase in people for example. Steve Wheeler, local business director for London BT Business, alluded to England in the snow and likened the Olympics to when it snows. Everything grinds down to a halt when it snows and said the Olympics will be like 8 weeks of snow.

Of the companies that have began to think about their staffing during the Olympics, the measures taken include the hiring of extra temporary staff. Businesses are also taking this time to review their flexible working policies. If it is likely to take that much longer to commute into work, perhaps some staff will be better off working from home? If working from home is not possible then it may be an idea to allow staff to arrive later and then work later to cover the lost hours. Whatever it is, employers in London especially, should be thinking about the potential disruptions the Olympics could bring to their workforce.

It is not just those employers based in London itself, but on its outskirts too as not everyone will be staying in centrally based accommodation. The disruptions are likely to affect a number of the routes into London. What employers need to do now is ensure that policies connected to absence from work and or flexible working are clear and everyone concerned knows about them. This alone will help to alleviate some of the possible problems that could arise. Similarly, if staff wish to take time off from work they should endeavour to make these requests as soon as possible to avoid disappointment and to allow their employer to plan staffing arrangements accordingly.

Some employees may have been given the opportunity to volunteer at the Olympics and be asking for time off to do so. An employer has no legal obligation to allow them to do so. In making a decision the employer should consider its business needs and make a objective decision. Some businesses may have a specific policy relating to volunteering or management may simply decide to give the employee unpaid leave, subject to staffing at the time. Alternatively, the employee might be asked to use their annual leave. Whatever the approach, it should be in a clear written format and well publicised to staff to avoid any problems.

ACAS has prepared a training course for employers on how to manage the impact of the Olympics. They recommend thinking ahead and making plans now on how to deal with expected issues. For example, if there is an event which is likely to lead to the prolonged use of work computers for viewing, perhaps it would be more beneficial to provide a television for a limited time? Of course, any such measures will depend on the working environment and carry many other issues. The key is to consider these issues well in advance and plan how you wish to manage them. There is still time to put some plans into action.

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