How to handle tube strike disruption in the workplace

Given the tube strikes last month, employers will undoubtedly have already faced employees encountering travel disruption difficulties. With the winter approaching, perhaps snow will be the next cause for disruption. Some employees may arrive late to work, want to finish their working day earlier in anticipation of travelling home and some employees may not make it to their workplace at all.

It is sensible for employers to adopt a formal policy which can be applied in these situations so that employees are clear in advance about how they should report such difficulties and how this type of absence from work will be dealt with. Such a policy also helps to ensure that all employees are treated in the same way, which minimises the risk of discrimination allegations.

Employers would be wise to think practically about how such disruption can be dealt with, for example, can the employee work from home instead or at a location that is closer to their home or can the employee make up the lost hours at some other time? Whilst this type of working arrangement might be far from ideal, it may in fact result in more productivity overall.

Another issue to consider is whether the employee will be paid for the hours missed. Their entitlement to receive pay will depend on the specific contractual terms that you have in place, so an analysis the employee’s contract and any other employment documentation (for example, a staff handbook) would be needed. Additionally, consideration should be given as to what you have done in the past as any previous practice could give rise to implied contractual rights. However, in the majority of situations, employees who cannot get to work will have no legal right to be paid for that time.

Nevertheless, even though there might not be a legal requirement to pay the employee, it could be sensible to show some sympathy for the individual’s predicament. Simply withholding pay can damage morale in the workplace and harm employee relations so you may want to offer your employee an alternative option, for example, the chance to take the time as annual leave (assuming they have sufficient holiday entitlement) or as time off in lieu (if you operate a flexitime system).

A final issue to bear in mind is if the employee needs time off work because, say, their child’s nursery is closed as a result of the disruption and they have no other childcare cover. In this situation, the employee is very likely to be able to legitimately exercise their right to take unpaid time off work to care for dependents.

Good luck with surviving any upcoming travel chaos. If you require any assistance with drafting an appropriate travel disruption policy, please do not hesitate to contact Katee Dias at kdias@gdlaw.co.uk or on 020 7404 0606.

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice.  If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.