Delayed or cancelled flights, the biggest rail strike in decades and the cost of fuel is a headache that we could all do without but are likely to affect most of us over the coming months so what will you be doing to manage the uncertainty of staff shortages due to travel chaos?

As the summer holiday season approaches and with strike action impending the impact of staff shortages due to travel chaos for many organisations and their employees is going to need some forward planning. Although these situations are unavoidable and with flights unpredictable, you’re going to need your employees at work rather than cope with staff shortages due to travel chaos. However, we suggest that you’ll need to be fair and reasonable in how you deal with the situation.

What if employees are unable to travel to work?

Strike action could cause public transport to be cancelled entirely. This will leave some employees with no way to travel to work. Employers can speak with these employees and discuss what other alternative arrangements can be made. Other alternatives could include:

  • Working from home (or another location) is going to be the most obvious solution in many cases
  • Adjust start and finish times to suit employees affected
  • Lift (& petrol cost) sharing
  • Agreeing annual leave
  • Enforcing annual leave
  • Agreeing to use any banked time off in lieu

It’s important to remember that f you decide to enforce annual leave, you have to give the correct notice. This is twice the length of the annual leave to be enforced, e.g. two days’ notice to enforce one day of annual leave.

Alternatively, you may wish to arrange a temporary period of flexible working with staff who start or finish outside normal working hours as their commutes are likely to be adversely affected by an amended transport timetable.

Employees are entitled to full pay as normal if you choose to utilise these options.

What if an employee is late because of the strikes?

Employees who are late because of the strike action are not entitled to be paid for any time they miss, as it’s unlikely that you have and contractual clauses that allow a right to be paid for lateness. You can agree with employees that they can work the time back, either on the same day or at a later date, to ensure employees are not losing out on pay. With the cost-of-living crisis on the rise, many cannot afford to be losing out on money!

As the strikes are not the fault of employees, you can choose to treat lateness due to strikes differently than other types of lateness. As a user of public transport these strikes are not just happening out of the blue and it’s up to the employee to get themselves to work on time but if your employee has made all reasonable efforts to get to work on time it would be harsh to come down on them too hardly if they are a little late. You could choose to disregard the lateness but, if you do so, this should apply to all employees who are similarly affected and may set an expectation that similar strikes will be treated in the same manner.

What about if an employee is stranded overseas?

We’ve all joked about getting another few days of holiday if flights home are delayed or cancelled but with the air industry problems this summer it’s not such a laughing matter.

There are a number of ways you could manage a stranded employee. If there is enough leave left in their entitlement you could agree to use holiday to cover the days before the employee gets back. You could also look at unpaid leave if there isn’t enough leave or the employee wants to save their leave for other things.

An employee may be able to work while they are waiting to get back to the UK. If they have the right equipment, can work safely and effectively and there is data security risk this might be a solution for you.

Plan ahead

It’s worth the time thinking about what your approach will be now before staff shortages due to travel chaos becomes a problem for you.

Make it clear to your employees how you want them to advise you of issues they have getting into work, simply expecting you to know if not acceptable and their absence could be logged as unauthorised. Devise a plan now of what you will do if it happens so that it’s a simple case of implementation if it does rather than a fire fighting the problem.

We’d be happy to talk you through any problems you may have with staffing problems during this time.

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