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Employment Alert – Impact of fuel shortages on employment


Impact of fuel shortages on employment

What’s happening?

The recent fuel supply issues will have affected most employees over the last couple of weeks, except maybe those with electric cars! But what obligations do employers have if employees say they can’t get to work because of fuel shortages?

Why is this important?

Technically speaking, it is a matter for the employee as to how they get to work. Subject to any company policy in place, an employer is under no legal obligation to pay employees who are unable to attend work due to transport issues. As a result, where employees are unable to travel to work by any means and they are unable to work from home, employers can require employees to take unpaid leave or allow them to use their annual leave. Those using annual leave should be paid as normal.

That being said, employers should still act reasonably to keep employee relations positive and to minimise any potential legal risks.

Disciplinary action for non-attendance may be unwarranted if the issue is completely outside of the employee’s control. However, if an employer considers that an employee has been dishonest or is taking advantage of the situation, disciplinary action will be more justified (subject to the usual requirements for a fair process will apply).

Employers should consider each individual’s circumstances before deciding what action to take.

What should you do?

  1. Given many employees will have worked from home during the pandemic, it may be as simple as allowing employees to continue working from home for the time being.
  2. Other reasonable steps may include allowing flexible working times (to avoid travelling during busy periods or when petrol stations are at their busiest), allowing flexible working locations (e.g. at different offices closer to home) or providing the cost of additional expenses for alternative transport (e.g. trains, taxis, buses or bicycles).
  3. Dependant on the scale of the issue, you may want to dedicate some resources to finding local stations with fuel and allowing your staff to leave in the day to fill up (for example, outside normal lunch times).
  4. Disciplinary action may be warranted if you suspect that the employee is being dishonest or is taking advantage of the situation. But make sure you can show evidence of such dishonesty otherwise you could be on the end of a constructive dismissal claim and/or unfair dismissal claim.
  5. Consider a long-term plan in consultation with employees if the fuel issues persist.

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