Flight delays - your rights and obligations when staff are delayed
Posted on 29th August 2023 at 16:18
A problem with air traffic control systems this bank holiday weekend led to hundreds of flights being cancelled or delayed. This causes a dilemma for employers with staff stuck abroad and unable to work. Ian spoke to Personnel Today about what employers need to consider in these circumstances:
Strictly, non-attendance is a breach of contract, but if the employee cannot get to work this can create a dilemma for the employer. The simplest option is to tell employees that if they can’t attend work they won’t be paid.
Employers could consider asking the employees to take a day’s leave so that they will be paid. However, it is unlikely employers will be able to compel an employee to take leave, as employers must give a certain amount of notice to do this. Unless the delay is long-term, it is unlikely there will be enough time. Employers might consider granting an additional day's leave and paying the employee but should consider whether this might cause resentment from other members of the team, especially if they have already done extra work while the employee was on holiday.
Disciplinary action would be harsh for those who are genuinely in difficulty and could cause ill-feeling. If the decision led to a dismissal - for example, the disciplinary forms part of a decision to dismiss an employee, or the employee claims constructive dismissal - you could leave yourself open to claims. Given that flight details are available publicly online, it is easy to confirm whether employees are delayed, and for how long. Disciplinary action is best used only if an employee is found to be using delays as an excuse.
You might want to update your handbook to encourage employees to book a 'buffer day' of leave after holidays to account for possible delays, jetlag or other unforeseen circumstances. Your policy could also set out how you will manage delays otherwise.
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