Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Prepare now before strike hits

Shropshire employers must brace themselves for the looming threat of strike action by petrol tanker delivery drivers.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist, said any potential strike could mean employees would struggle to get to work if they ran out of fuel. But he warned that dealing with this kind of absence was not an easy situation, and there were no simple solutions.

"Everything will depend on the terms and conditions that have been set out in your employees' contracts. You can only legitimately stop their wages for any unauthorised absence, so you'll need to consider carefully whether staying away from the workplace because of a fuel shortage is actually unauthorised.

"Maybe you could agree for the employee to take the time off as paid holiday, or allow them to make up the time in the future. Or if possible, you could give them permission to work from home until the strike is resolved and they are able to find more fuel for their vehicle."

John said asking staff to use holiday entitlement would again only be allowable if it was set out in the specific terms of the contract.

"As the petrol strike would be an event beyond the employees' control, you should be careful not to treat your staff too harshly. If you are too heavy-handed, it could be seen as a breach of trust and confidence, which would give your employee an opportunity to resign and claim constructive dismissal.

"It's vital that employers stick to recognised policies and procedures, and you may want to inform your staff of how you'll deal with any potential disruption before it happens - that way everyone will be clear on where they stand."