Whether you’re interested, indifferent or indignant, for seven weeks this summer (from the final torch relay on 26 July until the Parade of Heroes on 10 September) London will be an Olympic city and will welcome 10.8 million ticket holders, 55,000 athletes (and their supporters), 30,000 media staff and 100,000 ‘Games Makers’.
For employers, the biggest concern is keeping businesses running, which means ensuring that employees can continue to work during the Olympic period.
We know there will be ‘hot spots’ at major railway stations and interchanges on the tube and an additional 3 million tube journeys per day (doubling the current number). Even if avoiding the tube is an option, users of buses and taxis will be affected by delays as dedicated Olympic Route Networks take precedence, displacing ordinary traffic and causing congestion on major roads. Walking or cycling seems to be the only realistic solution.
If employees are unable to physically get to work or get home again, then other options need to be considered. Not every business can allow its staff to work from home for the full seven weeks, but it is clearly sensible to look at whether flexible working (reduced hours or varying start and finish times) or working from home could offer a temporary solution.
How employers deal with any changes is crucial and requires detailed consideration of contractual rights and employment policies. Whilst many have developed business continuity plans and improved remote access capabilities, which may assist, an event such as the Olympics creates even more issues for employers to grapple with.
Many employees have planned holidays, so employers need to manage holiday plans to accommodate competing requests and ensure fairness. They may also need to address incidents of unauthorised absence or short-term sickness under their existing policies and procedures.
Other issues arise when employees have applied for volunteer positions and have questions about their time off work and entitlements to pay and benefits. Many employees will want to watch the events at work, possibly in communal areas, or from their desktop PCs, at various times of the day; others will have no interest at all and may feel left out, or taken for granted, as they continue to work as normal.
There is undoubtedly a balance to be struck between the needs of the business and the wishes of employees during this ‘once in a lifetime’ event.
It is not too late to conduct an impact assessment or put plans in place to cope with the Olympics.