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Unexpected absence: an employer's guide

Snow, floods, erupting volcanos - all these things have stopped employees getting to work and caused disruption for employers in the last few years, showing you just never know what's going to happen. But how should you deal with issues of absence, pay and holidays in such circumstances? Read on to find out our tips for managing these problems and planning ahead for similar events.

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The legal view is that employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they are unable to get to work because of a travel delay. There is no legal right for staff to be paid by an employer for travel delays, unless the travel itself is constituted as working time or in some situations where the employer has provided the transport.

However, employers should remain flexible in this situation as there are various options available to you.

For example, you could:

  • Offer to pay an employee for a limited period of time as a good will gesture. There is no legal obligation to do this but it could help to raise staff morale
  • Offer the employee the opportunity to take additional annual leave.
  • Offer to pay an employee on the condition that they make the time up as overtime when they return to the UK.
  • If your employee can access a computer (or even a mobile phone) with an internet connection and/or email, it may be possible for them to work remotely. Encourage them to tell you when they are working and what work they are doing.

By dealing with issues flexibly and fairly, you will help to maintain good employee relations and prevent complaints to employment tribunals. Always make sure your decisions are consistent for all employees affected.

Keep in touch

If your staff cannot make it into work, make sure you stay in regular contact with them. This way you will have the fullest information about their travel situation.

You should also let them know any decisions you make regarding their pay and leave.

Plan ahead

Now is a good time to think how you would react if something similar happened that meant your staff couldn't get to work. Think about issues such as how you will support remote working, create alternative working patterns and who you could ask to cover positions at short notice.

Read more about business continuity planning.

For further advice, members of the Forum should call our helpline on 0845 130 1722. Not a member? Call us to find out how we can help you manage employment and HR in your business.