Fuel Crisis- What To Do If Your Employees Can’t Get To Work

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fuel crisis

The UK is experiencing fuel shortages. Some are placing the blame on ‘a perfect storm’ of Brexit and the pandemic, whilst others are blaming irresponsible press reporting for creating a panic buying, rush to the pumps which has seen people camped outside petrol stations and the army being placed on standby.

In this article we look at the HR issues which may arise due to the current fuel problems and transport disruptions facing the UK.

What if my staff can’t get to work?

It’s an employee’s responsibility to get to work but whether it is fuel shortages or bad weather, there will be times where an employee’s usual means of getting to work are not possible.

However, that is not to say that if an employee drives to work and runs out of fuel, they are entitled to remain at home.

It is advisable to raise this issue with your staff now. Emphasise that those who use their own vehicles to travel to work should start to look at other means of transport in case fuel shortages worsen, and they are not able to fill up.

You do not want to be seen to be encouraging panic buying but make staff aware that they have a responsibility to plan ahead. Those who live on public transport routes should start to investigate this as an alternative means of travel, likewise you can suggest vehicle sharing, swapping shifts or home working where possible.

If an employee advises you they cannot get to work due to having no fuel, you should ask them what attempts have been made by them to seek out alternative arrangements.

Communication is key.

Are they entitled to pay?

No. There is no legal obligation to pay staff who cannot attend work due to travel problems.

However, we should try to be as reasonable as possible. After all, if the employee is genuinely not able to get to work and there aren’t any viable alternative transport options- it would seem a bit unfair for them to suffer a financial detriment, especially with the prospect of rising energy bills and food prices looming.

Alternatives you may want to consider are home working or allowing the employee to take annual leave.

If we pay staff if they can’t get to work, can we ask staff to make up any lost time?

Yes, where the employee has not been able to get to work and you have agreed a period of paid or unpaid leave then you can ask that the employee make up lost time.

This is not the advised approach if you have allowed the employee to take annual leave because time off on annual leave is a legal as well as a contractual entitlement.

Please note- make sure that in asking staff to make their time back up, you are not inadvertently breaching the working time limits by asking them to work more than 48 hours a week.

Concerned about fuel shortages, we are operating a reduced service. What if I don’t have enough work for my staff or must temporarily close the business?

If there is a temporary shortage of work, employers can consider lay off or short time working.

  • Lay off is where employees are not required to work and are not entitled to their contractual pay/salary.

Employees can be placed on lay off for their full contractual hours or a few day/s a week.

Contractual pay is not payable during lay off, but statutory guarantee pay is payable where at least 1 day of work is lost. The current rate in 2021 is £30 per day for a maximum of 5 days in a 3-month period.

Depending on the individual circumstances, an employee may be entitled to employment benefits during a period of lay off.

  • Short time working involves an employee’s contractual hours being temporarily reduced.

As no full days are lost, statutory guarantee pay is not payable, instead, employees are paid only for the hours that they work.

Please note- You are only able to use lay off or short time working where your contracts of employment or employment handbooks allow. It is also vital that you seek advice from our experts before doing so, so that we can provide the necessary paperwork.

Can we insist staff take annual leave?

It is a little known fact that employers can ask their staff to take annual leave. It should only be done in exceptional circumstances, but it is an option.

This may not be practical at short notice though because you need to give twice the amount of notice as the time you want them to take off, for example, if you want someone to take two days off, you need to give them 4 days’ notice.

For more information on asking employees to take annual leave please see our previous article here.

What are my obligations if fuel shortages impact on an employee’s childcare arrangements?

Fuel shortages may affect school or nurseries from opening if their staff cannot get to work. It may affect an employee’s childminder from getting to work.

In these instances, you should ask your employee to try to find alternative childcare arrangements but where none can be found, they will need to take time off work to ensure their children or dependent adults are cared for.

This is called time off for dependents; it is a legal entitlement and not something employees should suffer a detriment for.

Unless your contracts state otherwise, time off for dependents is unpaid.

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Elena Boura