Employment e-Brief – The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – Impact on employers

Friday 24th February 2012

Acas has recognized that despite being an exciting time in the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games there are potential implications for employers. Employees may be intent on:

  • Volunteering – the selection process is underway to choose the “games makers” and people should be informed whether they are successful in early 2012
  • Being a spectator at the Games
  • Watching the action on television or via internet coverage

So what are the potential issues?

Time off for spectating or volunteering may give rise to issues with holiday bookings and staff coverage within businesses. Staff not wishing to take time off may want to discuss a flexible working arrangement to allow them to watch the event, whilst others who are disinterested in the Games may be annoyed at the perceived favouritism shown to those who don’t wish to be involved.


Acas will be publishing guidance for employers on their legal obligations to employees who wish to be involved in the event. Acas advises employers to start talking to employees now to manage expectations and minimise the impact on workplace productivity, taking into account the issues arising from the London 2012 Games such as planning staff holidays, working from home, and coping with difficult journeys to work.

The new and updated Acas guidance will help employers to:

Manage Attendance – start talking to employees about their plans. An option could be to have a ‘first come, first served’ policy for booking leave. In any case it may be helpful to draw up some guidelines.

Allow flexibility during this period – whether or not employers currently have flexible working, it may be something to consider, even as a short-term measure during the Games.

Deal with performance issues – there may be problems around staff watching lengthy coverage via their computers. An option may be to plan for popular events in advance, perhaps giving staff access to a television during set times.

Understand the legal rights of volunteers and responsibilities towards them – volunteering can help develop an employee’s skills but employers need to protect their business interests. Many volunteers will do ten days work, with three days training prior to the Games. An option may be to match an employee’s leave with special leave.