What Can Employers Do During Rail Disruption?
The Transport Committee has announced an inquiry into the ongoing rail disruption that’s happened since the introduction of new timetables in May.
Lilian Greenwood, MP, who chairs the Committee, said: “Passengers continue to suffer from terrible disruption to their train services, particularly on Northern and GTR services. My Committee is launching an inquiry into the May 201 timetable change; we will begin by questioning Northern, GTR and Network Rail but plan to take further evidence, including from the Department for Transport, so that we properly understand why the introduction of the new timetable has gone so badly wrong, what is being done to put it right and the steps needed to prevent this happening again. The Secretary of State has said there have been ‘major failings’ – we want to unpick this mess and understand how it can be prevented from occurring in December, when another timetable change is due.”
With thousands of cancellations having happened over the last three weeks, and Northern Rail announcing that six per cent of services would be axed every day until the end of July, the chaos is having a heavy impact on commuters. Wigan MP Lisa Nandy told the Manchester Evening News that one of her constituents is on a
final warning at work while Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles, said: “When affected passengers are getting worried about their jobs because of this, it’s time to say enough is enough.”
What can employers do to help those employees who are affected? ELAS employment law consultant Joanne Wells explains:
If employees are arriving late for work as a result of the disruption caused by the introduction of new rail timetables then these are circumstances beyond their control, which may call for more leniency on absence and lateness than usual.
It’s important to investigate the employee’s reasons for non-attendance or lateness and ensure that all employees are treated consistently, to avoid the risk of discrimination claims.
Of course, if an employer has good grounds for believing that an employee is abusing the situation or not being truthful about the efforts they are making to get to work, then it may be appropriate to follow your disciplinary procedures.
Employers may also want to consider offering flexible ways of working that will help their staff during this time. This may be making a temporary adjustment in employees’ hours, allowing them to arrive later or leaver earlier, or you may consider allowing affected employees to work from home.
The key thing in a situation like this is to ensure that you have open dialogue with your employees in order to find a suitable, mutual solution. Knowing which employees are affected by the rail disruption not only allows you to be more lenient when it comes to their lateness, it also will go some way towards allaying any fears they may have of losing their jobs as a result. This demonstrates that you, the employer, are sympathetic to your employees’ issues which, in turn, is usually rewarded with loyalty and high performance.”