Thousands of commuters across the country were faced with major delays following the cancellation of services by Irish Rail due to strike action by its employees. This was the first in a series of five planned stoppages in the run up to Christmas. This resulted in employees being late or unable to attend their place of work. We examine some of the key considerations for employers, including whether they are obligated to pay affected employees.
Are employers obligated to pay workers who are late or can’t make it into work?
Generally speaking and subject to any internal policies, employees are only entitled to be paid in return for work, so if they are late or cannot attend work, they are not entitled to be paid for that time.
What options are open to employers?
If an employee is delayed or cannot make it into work, employers may:
- continue to pay employees as normal. Before doing this, employers should consider whether this will set a precedent should the disruption continue over a number of days or weeks, which is expected;
- allow employees to take the missed time from their paid annual leave entitlement; or
- agree that employees can make up the missed time at a later date.
Can employers discipline employees who are late or don’t make it into work?
If an employee is genuinely affected by the disruption then employers should not discipline employees.
That said, if an employer suspects that an employee is simply taking advantage of the disruption and is using it as an excuse not to come to work, it is open to the employer to implement its disciplinary procedure, following an appropriate investigation.
With four more service stoppages planned by Irish Rail in the run up to Christmas, employers should take this opportunity to consider and decide on their own internal policy for dealing with employees who are unable to attend work due to circumstances beyond their control. It is also important that employers communicate this policy to all employees to ensure the position is clear going forward.