Travel disruption

Rail strikes and travel disruption across the UK

Rail strikes and travel disruption across the UK are hitting commuters and employers hard. Employees are facing delays, cancellations and lengthy queues to get to work. 

It’s estimated that a single strike day costs the UK economy up to £100 million in lost productivity, with the total cost of the nine-day walkout in December estimated at £1 billion.

In the most recent set of rail strikes that hit London and the surrounding cities, around 50,000 members of staff staged walkouts for three days, the 21st, 23rd and 25th June. 

These walkouts affected England, Scotland and Wales as staff argued with employers about pay, redundancy and safety concerns. 

With thousands of employees and businesses affected, many have been left wondering how best to deal with the losses, the disruption and most importantly, how to handle the lateness of employees during future inevitable strikes.

So what happens as an employee when you are late for work due to travel disruption, and how can you handle lateness as an employer

This month, Catherine Herries-Smith solicitors look at the rules, regulations and what you can put in place to ensure your staff are working most appropriately during these difficult times. 

Rights as an employee when you are faced with travel disruption

Whether it’s extreme weather, strikes, or other travel disruption that causes you to get to work late, you may wonder what your rights are as an employee. It’s not just extreme weather that can cause travel disruption, but it’s the most common. 

If you are faced with travel disruption, suddenly, you may have to turn to other forms of transport to get to work. This could mean a long cycle journey in the morning, a train journey that is delayed or a taxi that costs more than you anticipated.

So what are your rights if you struggle to get to work on time because of travel disruption? Can your employer give you a warning for being late when it’s outside of your control?

Firstly, and most importantly, you need to understand what is written in your contract (if anything) about travel disruption and getting to work when there are train strikes across the UK. 

Of course, you should only be directly affected by travel disruption if it is happening in your immediate location or the location of your offices. 

If you don’t have a travel disruption policy, it may be best to speak to your employer about how you can combat the travel disruption most effectively. Consider the following points for discussion: 

  • Working from home / working in a hybrid role 
  • Taking leave and making up the time later
  • Travelling during off-peak hours  

Preparing your workforce for travel disruption in the future 

It is unfortunate but necessary to be aware that the rail strikes we saw in June 2022 are unlikely to be the last time we ever witness strikes having such a profound impact on commuters everywhere. 

Employers need to be aware and prepared for future travel disruption, so they can continue to support their team most appropriately. 

Consider adopting a travel disruption policy that sets out your plans for your workforce during a period of travel challenges and what is expected of your staff during this time. 

Be aware when writing your policy that rail strikes affect all elements of travel, including buses, taxis and personal transport such as cars. 

Communicate with your employees and try to be flexible wherever possible. Speak to your employees individually and determine how much they will be affected by travelling to work during the disruptive period. 

Try to pre-plan your strike days as far in advance as possible. Consider your staff taking a couple of days holiday over the planned strike time. Just be aware that if you are forcing a staff member to take a holiday, you must give notice equivalent to twice the length of time of the holiday request.

 Alternatively, allow your staff to work longer hours on a non-strike day to make up for any time lost. 

There are many ways to combat the travel disruption your office could face, but the most important thing to remember is communication. Keep communicating with your staff and ensure they feel supported during a particularly stressful period for everyone. 

This may also interest you: 

Frequently Asked Questions | Employment Law | Herries-Smith Solicitors

A practical guide to whistleblowing for employees

Everything you need to know about a trade union in 2022

Catherine Herries-Smith is your local employment solicitor

As your local employment solicitor, we can support you with the issues you are facing in the workplace. 

Whether you are an employee facing discrimination due to the inability to make it into work during the rail strikes, or you are an employer dealing with a problematic employee who is using the travel disruption to their own advantage. 

Catherine Herries-Smith has over 20 years of experience in employment law, supporting both employees and workers with the challenges they are facing in the workplace. For more information or to discuss your case further, contact us today for friendly and supportive advice. 

At Catherine Herries-Smith Solicitors, we promise that you will only deal with one person from the moment your case has been assigned through to completion and final outcomes. 

We will support you as much or as little as you need during your discussions, including representing you during a tribunal if required.