London Midland has come under pressure to change its working practices in wake of the staff shortage scandal that saw virtually no staff turn up for work last Sunday (6 September).
The rail operator was forced to cancel most of its train services after drivers and conductors failed to volunteer for work following the end of a temporary agreement to give them double pay for Sundays.
The agreement, brought in at the beginning of the summer, was scheduled to end on 30 August, but it backfired when staff failed to put themselves forward once the double pay stopped.
Brian Rogers, head of risk and compliance at law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, told Personnel Today the agreement would “come back to haunt them” in future if they did not immediately ensure Sunday working arrangements were included in staff contracts.
“I suspect London Midland will find it difficult to get out of this,” he said. “From an employment perspective, businesses need to have this written down in contracts. They have to ensure they are cast iron.”
He added that other sectors, such as retail, already enforced contracts, and urged other employers to make sure their Sunday employment practices were sound.
“There are likely to be many other businesses with similar arrangements [to London Midland] in place, and they should be reviewing their working practices as a matter of urgency.”
Five facts about Sunday working
1. Employees have no statutory right to be paid overtime.
2. Employees cannot be required to work overtime, unless the contract states otherwise.
3. An employer that requires staff to work on Sundays can leave itself open to claims of indirect religious discrimination.
4. Protected shop or betting workers have the right to refuse to work on Sundays.
5. Those that refuse have the right not to be victimised or subjected to any other detriment short of dismissal.
For facts and information about Sunday working, go to Xperthrco.uk
London Midland said it will continue paying double time for an extended period while it seeks an agreement on Sunday working with the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union for the longer term.
However, a spokesman said including Sunday working in employees’ contracts had not previously been needed because, under their franchise agreement, contracts inherited many of the terms and conditions from previous rail companies. He could not say whether the contracts would change in future, but added Sunday workers had always been paid extra.
“Sunday working has always been paid at an enhanced rate; there has never been any question of Sunday working not being paid at enhanced rates,” he said.
Other rail firms, such as Virgin Trains, roster their staff to work Sundays. A spokesman said: “Sunday is not voluntary. The precise details are covered by arrangements negotiated with trade unions for each of the groups of staff involved.”
An RMT spokesperson said: “RMT executive is discussing the latest situation in terms of harmonisation of pay and conditions across London Midland with company union reps, and is considering options for pursuing the union’s objectives, including balloting members for industrial action.”