Employers are under no legal obligation to pay staff who are stranded because of the travel chaos caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland, lawyers have confirmed.
Travel industry body Abta has estimated that about 150,000 UK workers are stranded because of the disruption.
The Federation of Small Businesses today warned that staff whose pay is docked because they cannot get to work could take their employers to tribunal unless the organisation had a clearly agreed policy on authorised absence.
But Guy Lamb, partner at law firm DLA Piper, played down these fears. "It's implicit in the employment relationship that you turn up to work," he told Personnel Today. "It is helpful to have policies on this, but just because it's not written down, it doesn't mean you're in trouble."
Stephen Simpson, employment law editor at XpertHR, agreed. "As a general rule, employees who are absent from work are not automatically entitled to be paid," he said. "Having said this, if employees are unable to get to work through no fault of their own (for example, because of a natural disaster), employers may wish to show some leniency, not least because of the potential harm to staff morale."
Jim Lister, head of employment at law firm Pannone, added: "There is no case law on this, but unless the contract of employment provides for paid time off in the event of extreme unforeseen circumstance' (and in our experience that is extremely rare), the answer is probably not.