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Travel Disruption and Work: Your Rights

Find out how time off due to travel disruption affects your rights. Check how journey disruptions, such as winter weather, can affect your holiday entitlement.

TRAVEL DISRUPTIONS: There are several options for employees who lose time off work because of disruptive travel.

The first step should be is discussing the matter with your employer. It provides an opportunity to see whether:

  • You can make up the loss by working from home.
  • You can take leave from work instead.
  • You can make up for lost time at a later date.

Note: Always check your employment contract. It often outlines your rights about travel disruption and time off work.

Taking Annual Leave (paid holiday)

Travel disruption comes in many different forms. It could a public transport cancellation or bad weather. Either way, employers have certain rights. They can ask staff to take paid holiday (annual leave) – providing they give the correct notice.

As a rule, the notice given must be at least double the length of time they ask employees to take as annual leave. Thus, taking annual leave of one (1) day would need two (2) days of advance notice.

Note: Your contract of employment may stipulate a different notice period. As a rule, the notice period stated in the contract would apply.

Flexible Working Arrangements

What if you have a flexible working agreement and can’t make it to work due to travel disruptions? In this case, your employers can ask you to work from home instead or make up for lost time at a later date.

But, as a rule employers cannot force this issue. An exception applies if the arrangement is already written in the contract of employment.

If Your Workplace Closes

The interruption to your normal working pattern could be a closed workplace. In this case, your employer cannot deduct your pay providing you do not usually work from home.

But, employers may request their staff to work from another workplace or to carry out their job from home.

School Closure and Time Off Work

What about school closures or when childcare arrangements get disrupted? In most cases, an employee would have the right to take time off for emergency leave to care for family dependants.

Note: It is best for an employee to set up an agreement with their employer beforehand.

Adverse Winter Weather and Travel Disruption

As a rule, employees do not get automatic entitlement to pay if bad weather causes an absence from work. Read the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service advice about winter weather and travel disruption.

  • Employees who are unable to get to work due to travel disruption are not ‘automatically’ entitled to pay.
    • There is no legal right for an employer to pay staff for travel delays. Exceptions may apply if the travel is working time or an employer provides the transport. Even so, some organisations may offer discretionary payments for travel disruptions.
  • Take a flexible approach where possible.
    • Often, a flexible approach to working hours and the location may be more effective. Working from home on such occasions may enhance staff morale and productivity. Consider alternative working patterns or how to get staff cover at short notice.
  • Using modern information technology.
    • The use of information technology can be useful for a business to run with staff shortages. Consider whether using laptops or smartphones will suffice while workers are absent.
  • Fairness is important.
    • Businesses can get damaged by the effects of absent workers. It is important to take any measures that show accordance to a proper and fair procedure. This helps to maintain fair and consistent employment relations. Thus, it also helps to prevent further complaints to employment tribunals.
  • Planning ahead.
    • There is no harm in reviewing company policies for handling future scenarios. Put an ‘adverse weather’ or a ‘journey into work’ policy into place. State how the business will continue if staff cannot get into work. Decide how the company will deal with lateness and how it affects salary. Such policies reduce the likelihood of confusion and staff disagreement.

Travel Disruption and Work: Your Rights in the United Kingdom