HR Expert: Preparing for train strikes
I have a large client based in the centre of Manchester. Many of their employees get the train for at least part of their journey to work. Following the announcement of strikes on 21, 23 and 25 June, there has been a lot of discussions about what affected employees are going to do. My client intends to hold team meetings to discuss this, can you offer me any advice that I can share with them?

It is anticipated that the rail service across Great Britain will be reduced to a fifth of its normal levels on the three days of the strikes. As your client is clearly going to be affected by this, they are doing the right thing discussing this now.

What are the options your client could offer?

Thankfully, there are a range of options that should minimise the disruption. These include:

  • work from home – many employees may already be able to do this due to working from home during the pandemic
  • those who already work in a hybrid way could change their days at home for the planned strike days
  • agree a period of annual leave
  • enforce annual leave (by giving notice of twice the length of the annual leave to be enforced e.g., two days’ notice to enforce one day of annual leave, so this will need to be done soon)
  • agree to use any banked time off in lieu
  • arrange a temporary period of starting or finishing outside of normal working hours to make more transport options available
  • arrange for car sharing
  • consider hiring a minibus or taxis to transport staff
  • pre-book nearby parking and offer this to staff for free, at a discounted rate, or for payment in full (this could be by instalments to make it easier for staff).

The benefit of these options is that whichever one is selected, the employee will still be paid in full. Some do however incur cost to your client, in monetary terms and also in lost productivity through staff taking leave, but as this is for a limited time it may be worth it.

What if employees are late due to the strikes?

It really is up to your client how they want to approach this. In the very unusual circumstance that there is a contractual right to be paid for lateness, this will need to happen. Otherwise, there is no need to pay for time not worked.

Your client may have previously ‘rounded up’ for late employees, whereby, for example, they pay on the half hour, so an employee who is 10 minutes late for a 2 o’clock shift will not get paid until 2.30. In the case where lateness is unavoidable, this is highly likely to impact morale. It can also be an unlawful deduction of wages, as the pay won’t reflect hours worked. If the employee is paid on or around national minimum wage, this could also be a breach of those rules.

Alternatively, your client may instead agree with employees that they can work the time back. This may be the best solution.

What about childcare?

Should schools or childcare settings close, or limit their capacity, due to the strikes, employees have a right to take unpaid leave for dependants to put in place other arrangements. Having discussions now about how this might be managed will help employees to plan for this.


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