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Travel disruption

From time to time, travel disruption can affect an employees ability to get to work on time, or in some cases at all. For situations from public transport cancellations to severe weather, employers and employees should consider how this could impact on the workforce.

Key points to remember

  • Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if unable to get to work because of travel disruption
    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 provides the transport). However, employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place for this. Discretionary payment for travel disruption might also be of use. Some organisations offer discretionary payments for travel disruption or have their own informal arrangements for this purpose. Such arrangements are normally contained in staff contracts or handbooks or through collective agreements.
  • Be flexible where possible
    A more flexible approach to matters such as working hours and location may be effective if possible. The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity by the way it is handled for example is there opportunity to work from home. Think about other issues such as alternative working patterns or who can cover at short notice.
  • Use information technology
    Information technology could be useful in enabling a business to run effectively if many employees are absent from work, for example using laptops or smartphones.
  • Deal with issues fairly
    Even if businesses are damaged by the effects of absent workers they should still ensure that any measures they take are carried out according to proper and fair procedure. This will help maintain good, fair and consistent employment relations and help prevent complaints to employment tribunals.
  • Plan ahead
    Consider reviewing your policy and thinking about how you handle future scenarios. It would be best to put an 'adverse weather' or 'journey into work' policy into place that deals with the steps employees are required to take to try to get into work on time and how the business will continue if they cannot. You need to decide how to deal with lateness and what will happen with regard to pay. Having such a policy should mean, there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.

Question and answers

How can staff keep difficulties to a minimum?

  • Think about how you plan to get into work. Trains, buses and trams might be operating reduced timetables or be running earlier or later than normal. Car and bicycle travel may be delayed by road closures and slower drivingHave you arranged an alternative route or travel method to get in and get home? Have you considered the benefit of giving yourself a little extra commute time?
  • Think about what arrangements you have in place if your child cannot get to school, your normal childcare provider is unavailable or if your child's school is closed. Do you have a practical back-up arrangement?
  • Make sure you know how to get in touch with your employer if you are unable to get into work and that you have a means of communicating with them if you are going to be delayed.
  • If you are affected by the weather or other travel problems, is there some way you can work around this or keep the difficulty to a minimum? Think about if you have the option to work from home, alter your hours or if there is anything else you could discuss with your employer to help the situation.
  • Consider how your employer can deal with your workload in your absence. Can you let your manager know where everything is with a phone call? Do you need to let your employer know if any deadlines are at risk?

If some staff manage to get into work but others can not but still get paid is that fair?

While employees are not legally entitled to receive payment if not at work, some employers realise adverse weather and other factors that can affect travel don't happen often and may be flexible where possible. It can be frustrating for those who can get to work while others can't but not all situations are the same and it probably won't go unnoticed by managers.

What happens if the schools are closed and parents can not come to work?

In emergency situations an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off to look after dependants, although this would not normally apply to a situation where the employee was required to look after their children as a result of not having any childcare arrangements. In extreme weather conditions this could be seen as an emergency situation.

It's important to point out that this is Time Off for Dependants and as such an employee is entitled to as much unpaid time off as a tribunal decides is reasonable to make alternative arrangements for childcare. In other words, the right to time off may vary as per each individuals circumstance. Whilst some employers may offer this as holiday that is only with agreement from the employee and only if the employer wants to offer/accept it.

Employers may wish to see if some staff could work from home.

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