Petrol strike and workplace absence

The last week has seen forecourts across the country gridlocked, and petrol stations run dry, following ministers’ recommendations that motorists fill their fuel tanks up with the ominous threat of strikes by tanker drivers hanging over the UK.

With talks still ongoing and the threat of a strike still hanging over us, what are the employment implications for stranded employees and short staffed employers?

Employees are under a duty to report for work regardless of disruptions to public transport or the impact of striking tank drivers and associated fuel shortages. If employees are unable to travel to work in their cars, then they should be encouraged to consider alternative means of transport and make every effort to attend work regardless of the circumstances.

Employers should give careful consideration to, not only the employee’s individual circumstances, but also their contract before deciding on a course of action following an absence from work. The employer should be aware of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, which obliges the employer to treat employees with good faith otherwise the employee could resign and bring a case for constructive unfair dismissal.

Nevertheless, there are some solutions. Employers may wish to have their employees work extra hours at a later date, or where appropriate allow the employee to work from home. These are not necessarily suitable for everyone, so arrangements could be made to allow the employee to take the time off as annual leave for instance. This would avoid having to advise the employee that their time off work will be unpaid.

Careful consideration must be given where the decision is made to deduct pay as employees may be entitled to bring a claim for a breach of their statutory protection of unlawful deduction from wages. Any lawful deduction must be authorised by reference to the employee’s individual contract of employment.

Employers should consider a company policy outlining the procedures to be implemented in such circumstances which could equally apply to severe weather conditions, forewarned is definitely forearmed.

Jonathan Holden
Forbes Solicitors