With a week (if not more!) of travel disruption looming; tube strikes, train strikes, and even delays on flights over the summer period, these will all affect employers and employees alike. But what can employers do in these situations?
The starting point for all parties concerned is discussing and being upfront about the potential problems each can foresee due to the upcoming disruptions. Employers will need to ensure the business is able to continue but must accept problems will inevitably arise. These can be planned for in advance by considering alternatives. Working from Home is an obvious example for those that are able and whose business permits, but many businesses are unable to accommodate that. Altering shift patterns during strikes or even pre-booking taxis or a hotel nearby for certain members of staff may be other options to consider.
Employers would also have the option to enforce annual leave for employees who will be unable to attend work. However, employers should bear in mind this will be an unpopular option, albeit perfectly legal.
There are no specific legal requirements governing what businesses must do in these situations – the onus is in fact on the employee to get to work. If an employee does not show up for work, it is classed as an unauthorised absence and an employee will not be entitled to be paid. However, disciplining an employee for failure to attend when the situation is out of their control is also likely to be considered unreasonable.
Ideally, employers should have a policy in place for dealing with travel disruptions. Such a travel policy would cover when employees will/will not be paid so that expectations can be managed, the steps you expect them to take in such situations (i.e. making clear annual leave may be enforced) and can provide other options to be considered. A travel policy is highly likely to reduce the risk of disputes arising between employers and employees however, so is always advisable – especially when such strikes look set to continue over a prolonged period.
For any assistance with this or other employment law matters, please contact out Head of Employment, Ilinca Mardarescu.