Where do employers stand with travel disruptions?

Last month hundreds of businesses were affected by the various disruptions caused by Northern Rail, not only were employees not able to get to work but customers weren’t able to get to businesses.

While the compensation packages for those affected by the services have yet to be announced, it is telling that Northern Rail have also recognised the significant cost to firms throughout this period. As an employer, there are several ways you can handle such disruptions and it’s important that you are aware of them should you be affected by any future disruptions.

What options do I have if my staff can’t get to work?

  1. Annual Leave – Employers can ask staff to take annual leave provided they give the necessary notice. Your employment contract should specify a notice period in this circumstance, however if it does not then it must be at least double the length of the time staff will need to book off. For example, two days’ notice for one day’s annual leave.
  2. Flexible Working – Unless the role requires certain hours within a workplace, employers can ask members of staff to work from home if they are able or alternatively make up the time later. If your staff are able to work from home, then it is a reasonable request to ask that of them.
  3. Unpaid Leave – This choice largely depends on the employment contract. You aren’t able to force an employee to take unpaid leave if it isn’t already in your staff contract or handbook.

If it is the case that your business is closed due to travel disruptions or weather conditions, then you’re unlikely to be able to deduct pay. Again, you are able to request that flexible workers should work from home or alternatively another workplace if available and accessible.

Another thing to consider is the knock-on effect this could have with children and the school run. Your employees do have the right to request time-off for emergencies, if usual childcare arrangements have been disrupted. This would normally be laid out in the Employee Handbook and would usually result in unpaid leave for the appropriate period.

While it may seem unnecessary to have to inform employees of company travel policy in the staff handbook, Northern Rail has highlighted the potential damage it can do to your business should travel disruptions catch you off guard. Ensure that you have planned thoroughly for staff travelling to work and keep a record of those members of staff who are able to work at home if necessary.

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