Volcano update: Employers urged to adopt consistent approach

Employers have been urged to be consistent in their approach to managing employees affected by the travel disruption caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Travel industry body Abta has estimated that as many as 150,000 UK workers are currently stranded overseas.

Where employees are unable to get to work, decisions will have to be taken as to whether to allow line managers to use their discretion in granting special leave, or whether to require staff to take annual leave, advised Rebecca Clake, research manager at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Travel chaos: Guidance for employers

  • Ensure you deal with issues fairly, and that any measures are carried out according to proper and fair procedure

  • Consider your staffing levels and how to cope with extra staff absences

  • Consider the impact on customers and whether they are arriving in the usual numbers at the usual time

  • Plan ahead for the long term – this might also be a good time to plan how to handle emergency situations in future

Source: Acas

“There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but employers must take care to be consistent in the way they make the necessary decisions – guided by existing policies where relevant,” she said.

It will be important for managers to be understanding and sympathetic in the way they deal with employees who may be struggling with travel, accommodation and domestic arrangements in these unforeseen circumstances, according to Clake.

“Employers will have a continuing duty of care towards employees stranded abroad, which will generally require them to make every effort to help them make an early return to the UK,” she said.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said the disruption once again highlights the need for business continuity planning, following issues caused by severe weather and terrorist attacks in recent years.

Guidance on the volcanic dust cloud

Volcano update: Seven things employers should be doing

“We have long argued that companies should look at how they can make more use of video or telephone conferencing,” an IoD spokesman told Personnel Today. “By having flexible options to hand, firms are better positioned to deal with the unexpected. It’s not as if major disruptions to working routines are unusual and that, therefore, the investment would be a waste.”


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