How to handle staff absences due to travel disruption

by Nadine De Souza

With the UK having recently experienced one of the worst winters since records began, many employees have struggled to get into work due to travel disruption.

But what can you do as an employer if your staff can’t get into work? What efforts should you expect your staff to make to get in? And what happens if your employee’s child’s school is shut?

Here are our top tips on how to handle the problem and your rights as an employer:

1. Get it in writing

You have no legal right to pay your employees if they're unable to get to work because of travel disruption, but there may be contractual or customary practices in place. 

Include these practices in your employment contract or staff handbook.

2. Be flexible

Although there is no legal right to pay your employees for travel disruption, the way you handle it could enhance staff morale, so it’s advisable to be flexible. Consider whether your employees can work from home or make up the hours at a later time. 

3. Use technology

Technology can help to keep your business going when bad weather hits. Your employees can use laptops and smart phones to continue their work, even if they are unable to physically get to work. 

4. Turn the days into paid holiday

If there is travel disruption, you could ask your employees to take paid holiday if you give the correct notice. This must be at least double the time that they want the employee to take, so for one day’s leave there has to be two days’ notice. 

If the company's employment contract sets out a different notice period, then this will apply.

5. Follow procedure

Always make sure that you follow fair and proper procedures when dealing with employees who are absent because of travel disruption to minimise the risk of complaints being made to an employment tribunal by your staff.

6. Write a staff policy

It’s a good idea to put an ‘adverse weather’ or ‘travel disruption’ policy in place that deals with what will happen in the event of bad weather or travel disruption. 

It can deal with what steps employees are supposed to take to get into work and what will happen with pay and how the business will continue with the employees' absences. 

Having a policy will make it easier for all employees to understand what is required. Lawpack's solicitor-approved Staff Handbook template includes clauses on staff attendance and time off for dependants, so you can get a professional staff policy in writing easily and quickly.

7. Encourage your employees to have a back-up plan

Your employees can take measures to help themselves, such as planning extra commuting time when there are known problems with public transport. If their child’s school is closed, then they should consider having a back-up childcare plan.

Employees are entitled to time off to look after their children. if their children's school is closed. If the school is closed because of adverse weather, then this could be considered an emergency situation. Your employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to sort out alternative childcare.

Help from Lawpack

If you want more in-depth information – from an employment lawyer – about all aspects of employment law, then read our guide Employment Law Made Easy. Packed with tips and expert advice on complying with employment legislation.

Why not download our Staff Handbook, so you have a solicitor-approved company procedure in place?

Other information

External links

Published on: April 14, 2014

Did you like this article? Share it!

Staff Handbook

Staff handbook download advert

Outline your company’s employment policy with our Staff Handbook template. Easy to adapt to your needs.

Read More

Employment Law Made Easy

Employment law legal guide advert
  • Expert employment law advice
  • 'How to' information & instructions
  • Template contracts and letters
  • Written by employment law solicitor
Read More