Rail strike could lead to unpaid leave for staff struggling to get into work

Some employers may be forced to close for the whole of next week – imposing unpaid leave on their staff – as the rail strike threatens to wipe out four working days in a row, business groups have warned.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Institute for Directors (IoD) have said that employers in industries such as retail and construction, who cannot rely on homeworking, will be hit hardest by expected delays and no-shows from staff struggling to make it in via trains and overcrowded roads during the planned action on 6-9 April.

Unions have warned the rail network will “effectively be shut down” – putting thousands of commuters’ journeys at risk.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, told Personnel Today that, in a worst-case scenario, employers may write the week off and require staff to take holiday.


Is an employer required to pay employees who arrive late or do not arrive at all due to disruptions to public transport? 
If an employer closes its business because disrupted public transport prevents employees from attending work does it have to pay its employees? 
Can an employer require its employees to take holiday at a particular time?

He said: “If the strike goes on all week, I think if an employer is very uncertain about how many people would get in, it might say ‘we’re closing down this week and you [workers] will have to take holiday’.”

He stressed that enforcing unpaid leave on workers was a last resort and “aggressive”.

However, he added: “Rather than everybody wasting time, rather than everybody trying to keep a service up that doesn’t work, and given the uncertainty with not all workers getting in, might it make more sense for some employers to close down [for four days]?”

A spokesman at the IoD added shutting shop for most of next week was “a distinct possibility”. He said: “Four lost days is an awful lot of lost output when work is off-site. One can see that [employers temporarily shutting] happening.”

Manufacturers’ body the EEF pointed out that many firms it represented used the Easter and Christmas breaks to undergo training or maintenance, meaning services would be less effected by the strikes than normal.

The four-day strike, by members of the RMT and TSSA unions, is over plans to cut 1,500 maintenance jobs, while increasing evening and weekend working. It is the first time in 16 years rail workers have threatened to walk out.

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