Employers who fail to pay employees who fail to turn up to work because they are stranded abroad because of Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud could run the risk of having employment tribunal claims brought against them.
Coodes Solicitors is warning businesses that do not have robust absence policies, allowing them to deduct pay or annual leave when workers take unauthorised absence, will suffer the most.
Emma Bramley, head of employment law at Coodes Solicitors, said: “Where employees are stuck abroad on holiday, employers are perfectly entitled to insist that leave is extended using the employee’s annual allowance or that they take unpaid leave, but only if they have clear policies on their right to do so. It is a similar situation to the problems caused by the snow at the beginning of the year.”
“The most important thing for those who are stuck is to contact their employer as soon as possible to avoid any unauthorised absence issues which may lead to disciplinary action. Companies should be looking again at their absence policies in light of these events.”
The Federation of Small Businesses warned many businesses would struggle to meet the cost of paying staff overtime to cover for colleagues stranded overseas by the flight ban, and would also face extra costs such as lost contracts and the impact of penalty clauses if they cannot deliver the services as promised.
The warning comes as one local authority is said to have warned teachers that it will deduct money from their wages if they fail to show up at school after the Easter break because of the travel chaos resulting from the cancellation all flights because of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere.
An FSB spokesman said: “The whole situation could cost businesses a lot of money and employers generally take the view that pay is given for work that is actually done.”
A British Chambers of Commerce spokesman said: “It is absolutely crucial that employers have contingency plans in place for staff absence.”
A TUC spokesman said: “It seems unfair if people lost money because of a situation which is out of their control. Different employers will have different leave arrangements but it is hoped they can some to an agreement if they are not prepared to allow staff extra time off.”
To find out more, contact the Coodes employment team at email@example.com or call Freephone 08000 322 622.