How Should Employers Manage Staff During Strikes

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How Should Employers Manage Staff During Strikes?

During the course of the last week there is seemingly not a person in the jurisdiction of England, Wales and Scotland who has not been affected by the strike action afflicting the train services of the country. The legal profession were also making their voices heard in this way. Employers would not doubt be feeling a sense of frustration, annoyance and disgruntlement by the impact such industrial action may potentially have on their respective businesses. The respective Trade Unions involved did indeed delivered as they promised and decided to withdraw their labour following the respective ballots of their members. It presented huge challenges to the workforce with significantly more vehicles on the roads, many rail passengers have been left to find another alternative form of transport to take them into the workplace and some risk the lottery of being demoted, disciplined or dismissed by their respective employers for non-attendance at work, lateness or failing to carry out reasonable instructions.

So How Can Employers React?

It would be all too easy for those businesses employing staff during times such as this to opt for the torpedo option, reach for the lever marked termination of employment and pull the plug on persons affected in a negative manner by the ongoing strikes. However, external and in-house lawyers should be advising those business affected that the termination option is not the best course of action.

My Employees Cannot Attend Work Due To Strikes…What Can I Do?

In this regard lawyers should be advising businesses employing staff that they are not under a set down fixed legal obligation towards employees employed in their organisations negatively affected by industrial strike action. However, lawyers should be advising businesses employing staff to be as reasonable, accommodating, fluid and creative as they possibly can be in all of the circumstances. It may not perceptively be practical for those members of the workforce detrimentally impacted by strike affected transport problems to be sanctioned because of such action. In this situation employers need to be communicating with their staff, identifying those affected and the possible impact the industrial action may have.

It would not be perceived to be a seemingly wise move to say the least if an employer was to learn about the plight of a colleague affected by industrial strike action, discipline them and terminate their employment through no fault of the staff member.

External, in-house lawyers and human resource departments have always been and continue to be at the north-face of this area of law. They will need to ensure clear procedures and policies have been implemented which make clear what should be happening if such industrial action was to take place. It would also be helpful to make an exception for lateness in arriving at the workplace in the event of a strike. It may also be worthwhile suggesting that if such an event arises then the contract of employment will not be terminated and make it clear for the avoidance of doubt that it will continue.

A partner with RWK Goodman, Lauren Harkin suggested some practical ways to manage staff lateness affected by industrial strike action such as:

  • subject to business resources, providing and subsidising a place for the affected staff members to stay
  • permitting staff members to travel into the workplace later
  • granting permission for colleagues to travel home earlier to avoid transport difficulties and
  • being flexible in considering such requests from staff members.

This will increase team morale, productivity and mitigate the risk of affected employees being seemingly subject to unnecessary disciplinary action.

The Legists Content Team

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Mayne, Mahalia – How should employers manage staff affected by rail strikes? – People Management – 17 June 2022 - How should employers manage staff affected by rail strikes? (peoplemanagement.co.uk)

[2] Peninsula – How to handle employee strikes - (1) New Messages! (peninsulagrouplimited.com)

[3] Wills, Andrew – How to Deal With Strikes – 21 June 2022 – Croner - Dealing With Strikes | Croner

[4] Bevan Brittan – Dealing with strike action: a practical guide for employers – 23 June 2011 - Dealing with strike action: a practical guide for employers | Bevan Brittan LLP

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