Stranded employees shouldn’t necessarily be out of pocket, says Law Society

Published: 22 Dec 2014 09:30


ACCORDING to the Law Society of Scotland, employees stuck overseas because of airport strikes, bad weather, delays or cancellations could still be entitled to payment if they can work from their laptops.

The organisation is advising that while workers are not automatically entitled to pay if they can’t get to work due to travel disruptions, those who can work remotely – and have offered to do so – should be paid for their time by their employers.

It says situations can arise over the winter festive period when weather conditions can be the main cause of a delayed return to the office.

Solicitor Joyce Cullen, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Employment Law Committee and a partner at Brodies LLP, said: “If an employee cannot attend for work because they can’t get a flight home or even if the weather locally is so bad that they can’t make it into their usual place of work, then generally no payment is due. But, if it is feasible for an employee to work remotely via a laptop or smart phone, and they offer to do so, then payment should be made.”

The Law Society says parents also can face problems when their children’s schools are closed due to adverse weather conditions.

“In these emergency circumstances, parents and carers are entitled what is known as ‘Time off for Dependents’. This is unpaid time off to look after dependents, and the right to time off may vary according to individual circumstances. In these situations some employers may provide for employees to use their holiday entitlement instead, but this will only apply if the employee agrees to do so and the employer is happy to offer that choice.”

The Law Society says other options available for consideration by employers in such unplanned situations include allowing employees to take extra unpaid holidays, requesting employees to take extra holidays or allowing employees to make up the lost time by working additional hours on return. Or an employer could simply make a goodwill gesture and continue to make payment of salary as usual, if only a short time has been lost. These may be circumstances where a pragmatic, rather than a legal solution is best.

Cullen added: “Exercising judgement and a good measure of common sense often works best, allowing working arrangements which have been disrupted to be resolved and potential claims avoided. However, where discretion is exercised it should be done fairly and consistently.”

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