A LEADING employment lawyer has issued advice for businesses with employees caught up in the current international travel chaos.
The first week of the school holidays has seen lengthy queues at the Port of Dover, with the chaos at the ferry port mirrored by delays at international airports, with many holidaymakers left stranded abroad with flights either postponed or cancelled.
The delays are expected to intensify over the next six weeks as the holiday season gets into full swing, and there are worries about what will happen to staff unable to return to work on the planned date due to travel problems.
Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment Law and HR at Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, is urging employers to ‘act reasonably’ to ensure that employees are treated fairly for problems which aren’t their fault. Firstly the employee needs to contact the employer as soon as the employee knows about the delay to let them know what is going on and why it will affect them getting back to work.
She said: “One of the first things employers need to know is how long the member of staff is going to be delayed for. If it’s just for a few hours, can they facilitate a later start or swap shifts to ensure their employee can return to work a little later than planned?
“But if the employee is going to be delayed for a few days, then they need to decide what is the best course of action and there are a few options available. It would be completely reasonable for an employer to ask for flight or ferry information and details from an employee as evidence of the delay.
“If the employee has holidays left, then the easiest action would be to put it down as paid leave, or they could ask the staff member to agree to do overtime for the hours missed if the employee wants it to be paid absence. If the employee doesn’t have any holiday entitlement left, then it could be agreed as unpaid leave. There is no legal obligation to give any additional time off as paid leave unless the employee takes it as part of their annual holiday or agrees to work the time back.
“If they have dependents, either children or adults they care for, then it could also be considered to be time off for dependents, which is unpaid leave as there would be no other alternative option available but to care for them while they’re all stuck in Spain, for example.”
Joanne said employers could take disciplinary action if an employee does not turn up for work – but would recommend against this step unless the delay is not genuine or the employee has not contacted the employer to explain what is happening, so just does not turn up.
“It’s best to adopt a reasonable stance as you don’t want to face an employee resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal case or raising a grievance against you,” said Joanne.
“Do you really want to lose good staff members at a time when it is increasingly difficult to recruit, and with the additional cost of recruiting a replacement?”
Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors works with clients across Cumbria, Northumberland and nationally. It has six offices at Rosehill Carlisle, Carlisle city centre, Brampton, Penrith, Cockermouth and Haltwhistle.
The firm’s full range of legal services is available from all of its offices, delivered by its team of more than 50 solicitors.
It is the only legal firm in Cumbria to be a member of the innovative UK200Group, and offers specialist expertise to individuals and businesses across a wide range of sectors.
Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment Law and HR, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.