Q. How can our Company manage the potential impact on our business of any fuel strike and the fuel shortages which may happen as a result?
A. Employees who drive to work may face difficulties getting enough fuel for their journey. Schools and nurseries could close if significant numbers of their staff are unable to get to work causing problems for employees with children. However by planning how to deal with these problems means that any disruption to your business can be minimised.
The general position is that employees are not entitled to be paid if they cannot come into work to perform their duties. However, if employees have always been paid when unable to get into work because of transport strikes or other industrial action then they could argue that it is an 'implied' term of their employment contract that they are paid. If employees who are unable to attend work will not be paid, this should be made clear to staff now, along with any alternatives or exceptions to this general rule.
You are entitled to expect employees to make other arrangements to travel to work by using public transport, cycling, walking or car sharing with colleagues. If satisfied an employee has not been able to make such arrangements, consider alternatives such as allowing the employee to work from home or work from another office or site which is nearer to their home. Employees who have been unable to get to work could make up the time by working additional hours or extra days in return for still being paid for their absence. Another option is to seek to reach agreement with employees that they take such days as holiday.
Employers could consider making an exception and pay staff that have made genuine and reasonable efforts to get to work by alternative means, taking into account the travelling distance involved, health of the employee, availability of public transport and the nature of the employee's duties (e.g. ability to work from home).
In the unlikely event that you decide to close the workplace because of the fuel shortages then employees should be paid irrespective of their attempts to attend work.
Another issue concerns employees who have to take time off to look after their children if their school or nursery is closed. These employees should be treated under the statutory right to take reasonable time off to care for a dependant in an emergency. Whether these employees are entitled to be paid will depend on whether time off for dependants is paid or unpaid under their contract of employment or any Company policies.
Finally, whatever arrangements you decide to put in place to manage disruption these should be clearly communicated to your employees and fairly and consistently applied.