Rail passengers are facing travel chaos as striking train drivers have brought the Southern network to a halt. Passengers have suffered months of disruption as a result of the dispute between Aslef, the RMT and Southern, which is about whose job it should be to open and close the train doors.
So how can businesses deal with these disruptions?
- Firstly, check your policies and procedures to see whether they cover lateness and absences. For example, do they specify the steps employees are expected to take when they will be late or cannot make it into work?
- Secondly, if you know a strike is going to cause problems to your business, discuss with staff alternative ways of getting into work, such as cycling, taxi, minibus or car-sharing, or how an employee’s work will be covered if they cannot get into work.
- Thirdly, consider whether working from home is feasible or whether you could accommodate a change of shift or flexible hours.
If these are not viable options, you might have to consider allowing staff time off, but contrary to popular belief, there is no legal obligation to pay staff for time off in these circumstances unless their contract of employment or the staff handbook says otherwise. Payment would be entirely at your discretion or alternatively you could consider giving staff the choice of taking time off as paid annual leave.
Even if your business is not directly affected by the strike, you should bear in mind some of your employees may be indirectly affected by strike action. For example, schools and nurseries may have no option but to close if their employees are unable to attend work. This has a knock on effect, possibly resulting in your employees needing to take time off work to look after their children.
You should check your staff handbook to see if it contains a policy dealing with time off for dependants, and make sure your employees comply with it. There are statutory minimum requirements and breaches could result in a claim in the Employment Tribunal if the correct procedures are not followed.
We recommend you check your contracts and policies now so that you know how to handle the situation as and when it arises.
If you would like more information about handling staff absences or lateness, contact Sally Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01905 734032.