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The popular tourist destination of Sharm El Sheikh has been in the news for all the wrong reasons these past few weeks. A number of airlines recently suspended flights to and from the resort’s airport due to security concerns. This comes a few weeks after the British Government halted flights to and from Sharm El Sheikh for security reasons leaving thousands of holiday-makers stranded waiting to get home. Employees due back to work were unable to return owing to circumstances beyond their control. In such situations it is important for employers to know their rights and duties in relation to such employees.
Generally, employees have a duty to turn up and work and employers have the obligation to provide work and to pay the employees for that work. On the other hand, if an employee does not meet their obligation due to unauthorised absence from work then it could be argued that the employer’s duty to pay them does not apply. It’s worth bearing in mind though that employees have certain legal rights such as the statutory right to unpaid time off for family emergencies, the right not to suffer unlawful deductions from wages, and discrimination.
Employers are only entitled to withhold pay if the employee’s absence is unauthorised. Usually, unauthorised absence may be dealt with in line with an organisation’s disciplinary policy. Employers need to be cautious as to whether the terms in their employment contracts clarify if absence due to unforeseen circumstances (such as cancelled flights) is classed as unauthorised absence. Deductions from pay will be unlawful unless the employment contract allows employers to do this.
Employers may wish to exercise their discretion in such cases but must be consistent in their treatment of employees to avoid possible discrimination.
A common sense approach to the issue of absences due to reasons beyond the employee’s control may be to allow the employees to take the time off as paid holiday or to allow them to make up for the time within an agreed timescale. This would be a more practical way of dealing with such an issue as opposed to docking pay.
Finally employers should:
• Highlight to employees the importance of reporting absences properly to allow for the organisation to make contingency plans.
• Consider amending standard terms of employment to clarify what circumstances amount to unauthorised absence and in what situations organisations can make deductions from salary
• Carry out regular risk assessments, check the latest employment law practices, and develop or review crisis management procedures for use in case of emergency
This article is a summary of a CIPD news article which can be accessed in full here
This winter is projected to be one of the coldest thus far due to El Nino potentially plunging the UK into freezing temperatures. Perhaps this feels a bit like a broken record and that this is said every year… Either way, best to have an Adverse Weather Policy / Travel to Work Policy on hand in case this happens.
The weather can affect employees and their daily commute to work; either to get to work on time or indeed arriving at all. This could include public transport cancellations, bridges closing, severe weather, etc.
Here are some key points for employers and employees to know:
1. Employees are not entitled to be paid if they are unable to work because of travel.
2. Employers should be flexible when dealing with travel disruption. This could include flexibility in the hours worked – perhaps starting later and ending later. Or this may involve working from a different location (ie home).
3. Be technology savvy. If employees are able to work at home – then this could be an option for them if they are unable to attend the office.
4. Think ahead. If you know bad weather is coming, plan for this. Discuss with your team what they intend to do if they can’t get to work.
5. Deal with issues fairly. If you allow one employee to ‘take the day off’ then you should allow all employees this. Creating a policy and following procedures will enable fair treatment for all staff.
6. Employees should have a plan. You should ask your employees to consider the following questions to prepare for travelling to work this winter:
• How are they going to get into work if their normal transport is unavailable? • Do they need childcare if schools are closed? • Who will they call to inform about either running late or being unable to travel at all? • Could you work from home if unable to attend the office? • Who will your work be passed to in your absence?
The best advice in preparing for Adverse Weather and Travel Disruptions is for employers and employees to plan ahead. Keep an eye on the weather reports and plan for travel into work in the event of a travel disruption. If possible, working from home could be an option.