According to the Financial Times, London is about to be hit with it’s worst tube strike in over a decade this week, as it appears talks with unions and London Underground managers have been unable to stop the planned walkout on Wednesday evening for 24 hours.
Your business can be easily disrupted by many things – floods, bad weather, crime or technology let downs. While these are usually unforeseen events, the strikes in the London Underground are something you can prepare for.
Here we run through some of the main options and explain the legal issues for employers.
First of all, is transport realistic?
For up to date advice about alternative transport it’s best to check the Transport for London website but alternatively you can consider using the following:
- Boats: River boats usually run during the strike action, check the website for the additional services
- Cycling: While you don’t want staff who’ve never cycled to launch out into London traffic, Boris bikes could be a solution for seasoned cyclists.
- Bus: Extra buses may be running but are likely to be busy so check schedules
Is working from home an option?
Time is money. Why waste time stood in queues when you could all be working productively at home? If your work is computer or phone based, it could be worth just asking staff to stay home. Be aware that you can suggest this option, but not insist on it, unless it’s in your employment contract.
If you do choose this option, you’ll need to make a few arrangements in advance:
- Check if employees have a safe, quiet place to work. Do they have a desk to sit at? See the HSE’s guide to homeworking.
- Make sure that they have all the right equipment and access to the files or info they need.
- Check that you’re insured for staff using their home as a workplace. Are laptops and other devices insured for use outside of the office? If you’re in any doubt, call your insurer. If this is your idea, you’re obliged to pay them for their full contractual hours as you would normally.
- If you handle clients’ data, you also have responsibilities under the Data Protection Act. In the worst case scenario, a device could be left on a bus in the chaos. Make sure that devices are properly password protected, have anti-virus installed and updates, and files with personal data are also password protected.
The legal stuff: when work just isn’t possible
If you really have to close your business for the day, you have two options:
- Ask your staff to take a day’s holiday: legally you’re obliged to give two days’ advance notice if you want them to take one day off. Make sure your contract doesn’t have a different notice period though!
- Give staff the day off: in most cases, you’ll still need to pay them for the day’s work.
If you’re still open, but staff can’t get there, you’ll need to decide what you will and won’t pay them for. Check employment contracts: are employees entitled to be paid for any hours missed? Whatever you decide, just make sure you communicate your policy to staff clearly and well in advance.