Strategic employment advice

People Make Glasgow said the slogan, and people certainly made the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

It goes without saying that the athletes who battled so hard for medals, or simply to do their best, are the ones in the spotlight of any major international Games – but for once we'll get to them later.

To pull off the most successful Games ever required building a workforce to service an entire global multi-sport event in under three years, multiplying exponentially as the Games approached ... then dismantling it almost overnight.

Recruiting a 15,000 strong army of volunteers, the Clyde-siders, was just one of the challenges we helped to address, structuring processes and supporting decision-makers when issues arose. With their red uniforms and smiling faces becoming an integral part of the Games experience, the Clyde-siders were a major part of its success, so that didn't work out too badly! Of course, the 15,000 volunteers came in late in the day and prior to their arrival we had helped to build a permanent workforce of 1,500 employees and 300 pre-Games volunteers.

From an employment law perspective it was an unrivalled opportunity to show what our team can do. You can't think of another set of circumstances in which this type of employment/people exercise on this scale has happened before in Scotland, or will happen again in my lifetime. 

Bruce Caldow, Employment partner, Harper Macleod

Strategic advice

Our specialist employment law team provided strategic advice that helped the Organising Committee deal with workforce planning and all the issues that affect a major employer – but at a pace that would put a Jamaican sprinter to shame.

Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee was an organisation unlike any we'd ever advised before. Its shelf-life was pre-determined and even before it had even begun the endgame was known – the last employee would be turning out the lights in early 2015.

Such an organisation required a staffing structure and strategy fit for a singular purpose – delivering the Games – and that's where we came in.

Employment law changes quickly at the best of times, throw in the unique challenges of an event such as Glasgow 2014 and you're in for an interesting time.

We assisted with the recruitment and building of a workforce required to service this once-in-a-generation occasion.

This involved structuring policies and contracts dealing with all the issues that could crop up for everyone from senior management to volunteers. The Games were all about inclusion, and we wanted to help Glasgow 2014 involve as many of those people who wanted to play their part, so immigration and right-to-work issues were important, even for volunteers. Advising in relation to sensitive political issues such as whether asylum seekers and refugees could participate in any way was a discrete issue; a wider issue was how Glasgow 2014 could take a fully established workforce of 1,500 employees and move them in to an appropriate Games-time role which was completely different to their contracted role. Planning, foresight and a confident solution was important.

Change took place in more ways than one and when contractors changed, such as the need to upskill and provide a higher level of security at the Games village when it was starting to become operational, led to a focus on employee issues; our joined up approach to advising ensured that employment law issues and requirements were addressed in the contracts entered into, allowing change to take place without typical difficulties caused by changing service providers.

We also advised on a range of complex, high profile and high risk matters. Where they arose we were on hand to help resolve them. Some of these issues were truly reactive – people will always face challenges in the workplace, it's an occupational hazard to employing people – but they were also specifically Games related, like structuring a workforce at a venue to cope with almost 17 hours of operation when the Games were taking place; how to balance the requirements and obligations of the Working Time Regulations and health and safety obligations against operational delivery with a finite budget and workforce was just one hurdle successfully leaped.

The rise and fall of employee numbers was a challenge that our team tackled from day one. Glasgow 2014 Ltd went from 70 employees in 2011 to around 1400 during Games time. Add in 15,000 volunteers and countless contractors, and the workings of such a machine could have become overwhelming – with a Games to deliver on time that couldn't be allowed to happen.

We made it through the Games experience without even one claim being presented against Glasgow 2014 for employment related matters; quite an achievement given the size and scale of an operation that had to deliver. But our work didn't end with the end of the Games and the dissolution effort; we also had to help with staff transitioning to new roles.

One such highlight was advising in relation to an application to change immigration status allowing the employee to remain and work without restriction in the UK.

 

Athletes

We advised Glasgow 2014 on its contracts with the various doping testing laboratories and collection agencies, necessary to underpin the desire to have a doping-free Games.

Separately, we worked closely with the Scottish Institute of Sport by conceiving of and delivering training sessions to the 17 sports governing bodies in Scotland who were responsible for assessing and nominating athletes to Team Scotland. Our training sessions focused on how each sport could fairly assess and apply stated selection criteria and keep on the right side of the law – not leaving themselves vulnerable to challenge in the courts. Our follow-up sessions helped the governing bodies to properly prepare for and handle challenges in the form of internal appeals by disappointed athletes. And as the Games got closer and decisions made, a number of governing bodies instructed us to ensure that they could repel any challenges intimated in one last ditch attempt by athletes to force their way in to the Games.

The friendly Games also had to ensure that athletes from all countries were properly supported and assistance made available at the time of the Games, when in Scotland. To that end, we assisted Glasgow 2014 conceive and implement a pro bono panel of solicitors, firms and advocates to be on hand to dispense advice and support in the event of any legal issue arising for visiting athletes.

Bruce Caldow

Bruce Caldow heads Harper Macleod's award-winning Employment team. He supported the Organising Committee of Glasgow 2014 with strategic advice around workforce planning and people related matters, together with advice and support to solve any problems as they arise. Bruce also advised in relation to regulatory matters such as anti-doping.

Separately Bruce played a key role in working with the Scottish Institute of Sport in training the Scottish sports governing bodies who were to nominate athletes to take part in the Games as part of Team Scotland. These sessions covered how to fairly select, together with how to deal with appeals and challenges by disappointed athletes.

Bruce said: "I think there was a feeling of immense pride that not only did we help the Organising Committee of Glasgow 2014 deliver the Games, but in the way in which we helped them deliver when the pressure was on and how we came together within the firm to do that.

"The level of support we provided, in terms of the effort we put in and the way we personally invested ourselves in it, evident across the whole of the firm. We worked across departments and across the firm so well because it really did mean so much to us to help put the Games on.

"As someone who's been in the firm for so long, it was great to see so many people within Harper Macleod embracing and enjoying it as well. As an event it exceeded all my expectation and was better than every international sporting event I've experienced in the past, such as the Rugby World Cup or football's European Championships.

"From an employment law perspective it was an unrivalled opportunity to show what our team can do. You can't think of another set of circumstances in which this type of employment/people exercise on this scale has happened before in Scotland, or will happen again in my lifetime. There fact that there has not even been one claim against the OC on employment related matters speaks volumes. Glasgow 2014 had a workforce of16,500 people, and this says a lot for the culture and the delivery, things that we were invested in conceiving and supporting.

"As an employment law project we faced some unique challenges. We had to be both legally correct and able to provide the right solution. Issues arose that not only required us to find the right answers, but do so under the microscope of wider political and public interest. It's not often you will advise a private company on matters regarding which there are so many stakeholders with a clear interest."

More from Harper Macleod

HM Insights

Visit the HM Insights page to keep up to date with changes to legislation, case law, and our views on other interesting developments in Scotland and the UK.

Learn more

Careers

Want to be part of the future at one of Scotland's most progressive law firms? Talented colleagues are the key to our success, that's why we look after each other so well.

Learn more

Why choose us?

You don't need a lawyer - not many law firms will tell you that. What you need is someone to provide a solution, and our advisors are dedicated and flexible enough to do just that.

Learn more