For the past few months services on Southern have been, to put it, mildly erratic. We are now faced with series of strikes which are shutting down completely the London Underground network. Even if your employees don’t use these services the knock on effects of these and other disputes affect other transport networks and their ability to get into work.
There are certain obligations both on the employee and employer. The employee should make every effort to contact the employer to explain their predicament and to indicate as best they can when they are likely to be back. In these circumstances, contact can be made by phone, email or text message. For small organisations absence of key employees can have a devastating effect especially if the absence is prolonged and unplanned stopping the employer from taking contingency action to cover the absence.
If the employee fails to make any sort of contact the employer can think about treating this as an unauthorised absence or holiday entitlement.
An employer can always decide to exercise their discretion and take a pragmatic approach and pay employees for some or all the days they cannot make it into work, where their absence is beyond their control. Or you can allow them, if they can to work, from home.
However, you must ensure all employees are treated in the same manner so if in January or February there is snow and people can’t get to work you must adopt the same approach.
A sensible way to approach this it to ask the employee to take this time as holiday entitlement or take the extra days as unpaid leave. If that is not possible you should put together a practical solution to allow the employee to make up the extra time by say unpaid overtime over an agreed period i.e. if they can’t work for a day which is 8 hours and a normal working day is 8 hours then they work 1 extra unpaid hour for the next 8 working days – messy but fair.
Employers should review their holiday policies and make sure they are updated to cover these contingencies and to communicate to all employees what is expected in these circumstances and how the employees should act. Existing contracts should updated every 3 years anyway and this should be included in the next update.