Tube strike: how to deal with disruption to employees’ journeys

Tube strike in April 2014. Michael Bowles REX/Shutterstock

With tube and rail strikes set to go ahead this evening, how can employers prepare for the impact this could have on employees’ ability to get to and from work?

Talks aimed at averting a 24-hour tube strike broke down on Monday, after unions failed to agree to a two per cent per year pay increase and £2,000 bonus for drivers working on the planned all-night service.

First Great Western staff are also set to go on a 48-hour walkout over plans to cut guards and buffet cars on new Intercity Express trains.

Almost 20,000 workers are due to take part.

The strike will start at 18.30 this evening for RMT, United and TSSA union members, and at 21:30 for ASLEF members. It is expected to cause major disruption to commuters’ journeys home tonight and into work on Thursday, with additional congestion expected on buses and London Overground services.

For employers, this may cause problems for staff trying to get to work, meaning they may need to consider alternative ways of working, and think about how any lateness or absences will be treated.

What can employers do to prepare for the impact of travel disruption on employees?

Look at your policy

An adverse weather or journey into work policy will clear up any confusion over the steps employees are required to take to try to get to work on time, and the consequences for turning up late.

Alternative ways of working

Employers have little control over industrial action, so may need to be flexible about how staff get work done. This could mean allowing staff to work from home if it will be difficult or overly time-consuming for them to get into work, or adapting their hours around the strikes.

How will you treat absence or lateness?

If an employee turns up late due to the disruption caused by the strikes, these are circumstances beyond their control so this may call for more leniency on absence and lateness than usual.

It is important to investigate the employee’s reasons for non-attendance and ensure that all employees are treated consistently, to avoid the risk of discrimination claims.

Of course, if the employer has good grounds for believing an employee is abusing the system, or is not being truthful about their efforts to attend work, then it may be appropriate to follow a disciplinary route.

Closure of schools or nurseries

Remember, too, that employees’ childcare or school arrangements may be affected by the strikes if staff in these settings find it difficult to get to work. This may mean staff need to remain at home to care for children.

In this situation, employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off (unpaid) for dependants because of unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements to childcare.

However, if the employee is able to and does work from home, the right to time off will not come into play and they should still be paid.

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