Snow, strikes and the HR headache


It’s been hard to escape the news of the Southern and tube strikes taking place this week, they seem (at least in London and the South) to be covered by every news outlet.  While the disruption they cause to workers is easily seen, for those working in HR or within leadership they add another complication.  Should workers unable to get to work still be paid?

Normally at this time of year it is the other S that causes problems, snow. Which, if the cold snap currently hitting mainland Europe comes our way, might soon be an issue in the UK. While they are very different causes, the outcome is the same.  Workers are unable to get to their place of work due to no fault of their own.  So where does this leave employers?  While is seems unfair to force employees to take unpaid leave, it is also unfair for those employees that have made it into the office, who no doubt will take on some extra work from their strike/snow-affected colleagues.

Luckily technology allows most office based staff to, if only for a short time, work remotely.  But unfortunately, this isn’t an option for those working in customer facing roles. A haircut via Skype just wouldn’t have the same outcome.

There have been numerous reports of employees losing jobs, job offers being revoked and people moving house all due to the ongoing transport disruption.  But what are the HR implications, what are the regulations surrounding this.  If an employee can’t get to work, should they be paid or do they need to take annual/unpaid leave?

The law isn’t that clear cut, as covered here by HR Director magazine and in more detail by Thorntons Law Firm.  If an employee has made a reasonable attempt to come into the office, then they should receive payment, this is the same for both adverse weather and travel disruption.  How this can be proved and what constitutes a reasonable attempt, are up for discussion.

For the majority of large organisations, they have policies in place and contingency plans to help cope with situations such as this.  Be it allowing staff to work from other offices, from home or take days as annual leave.  The biggest impact is perhaps felt by those smaller or customer facing organisations, where a key member of staff being unable to come to work can have a greater affect.

As we’ve covered previously, will this ongoing industrial action lead to a change in working patterns, will more employers embrace remote working?  We will just have to wait and see, but one thing seems to be certain, the disruption appears to be here for the long-term.

Let us know your thoughts…  how do you deal with staff absences due to travel or weather disruption?

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