Flexible working and the Olympics – employers’ questions answered

Employers operating in London, and other areas where Olympic events are taking place, must consider the imminent road congestion and disruption to the public transport system that will result from this summer’s Games.

Many employers will have to deal with employees having trouble getting to work on time. Rather than accepting as inevitable the disruption to the business, lost working hours and stress caused to employees, employers should consider putting in place temporary flexible working arrangements.

We answer the following questions about implementing flexible working during the Olympics period.

Q Can I require employees to work from home?

Rather than having employees arriving late at work after a stressful journey, some employers will consider asking them to work from home. As long as the particular type of work is suitable for homeworking, this can mean that employees can spend their time wisely, rather than stuck in overcrowded trains, queuing to get into stations or waiting in traffic jams.  

Can employees be required to work from home if the transport system is disrupted because of the Olympic Games?

Q Can I require employees to work from a different site?

As well as wasted time and stress caused by lengthy journeys to and from work, disruption to the transport system will make it difficult for some employers to go about their daily business, even if employees can get to work on time. The location of some businesses will lead to difficulties with deliveries, clients not being able to get to the premises, or employees missing external meetings or site visits.

If an employer has multiple sites, it might want to ask employees to work from a different site during the Games period, where the disruption will be less of an issue.

Can employers require employees to work different hours or from a different location during the Olympics?

Q Can I require employees to change their hours?

The Transport for London website, Get ahead of the Games, provides advice on the expected busiest travelling times in all areas likely to be affected by the Games. Depending on the nature of the business, some employers will consider changing their employees’ hours to avoid the busiest periods.

Can employers require employees to work different hours or from a different location during the Olympics?

Q Do I have to worry about health and safety if employees are working from home temporarily?

Employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. This includes employees who are working in their own home and are doing so only on a temporary basis.

Is an employer under an obligation to conduct a risk assessment where an employee will temporarily be working from home during the Olympics?

Q What if employees decide that they want to work from home permanently? Do I have to agree?

Employees who work from home during the Olympics might argue that they should be allowed to continue to do so on a permanent basis. They may consider that they have a good case, if they have shown that it’s possible for them to work effectively from home. If the employee qualifies for the right to request flexible working, the employer must consider any such request in accordance with the statutory procedure. Employers should take the needs of the business into account when making any decision on whether or not to allow employees to work from home.

Where an employer allows employees to work at home during the Olympics will this mean the employer will be obliged to let them work from home permanently should they wish?

Which employees are eligible for the statutory right to request flexible working?

How should an employer respond to a request for flexible working?

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