Volcanic ash flights chaos: Employers who dock stranded workers’ pay risk tribunal claims

Businesses that dock the pay of workers who fail to turn up to work because they are stranded abroad by the volcanic ash cloud could face employment tribunals, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.

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Firms that don’t have robust absence policies stating that they are entitled to deduct pay or paid leave when workers take unauthorised absence will suffer the most, the small business group has warned, reported in the Daily Telegraph.

The warning comes as one local authority is said to have warned teachers that it will deduct money from their wages if they fail to show up at school after the Easter break because of the travel chaos resulting from the cancellation all flights because of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere.

An FSB spokesman said: “The whole situation could cost businesses a lot of money and employers generally take the view that pay is given for work that is actually done.

“We foresee employment tribunals further down the line because of this, unless firms have a clearly agreed policy on authorised absence.”

Chris Syder, head of employment at law firm Davies Arnold Cooper, said: “In the case where employees are abroad on personal business, such as a holiday, employers are within their rights to insist leave is extended using a person’s annual allowance or that leave is unpaid, effectively reducing pay.

“The most important thing for those who are stuck is to contact their employer as soon as possible in order to come to an agreement.”

He added: “There will be a few firms looking again at their absence policy in light of these events.”

A British Chambers of Commerce spokesman said: “It is absolutely crucial that employers have contingency plans in place for staff absence. The swine flu threat from last year has helped more firms realise they have to prepare for the unexpected.”

A TUC spokesman said: “It seems unfair if people lost money because of a situation which is out of their control. Different employers will have different leave arrangements but it is hoped they can some to an agreement if they are not prepared to allow staff extra time off.”

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