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Dealing with unexpected absences

Unexpected absences can often present challenges for employers, and – September has not begun as expected! Not only has there been significant disruption with major technical issues with the UK’s air traffic control systems, but Gatwick airport has been hit by further disruption in recent days due to staff shortages. This hasn’t only impacted holidaymakers returning to the UK, but those who need to travel overseas for business.

In addition to these disruptions, there is the further challenge where schools in England have been forced to remain closed at the start of term due to serious health and safety reasons. There are many schools that were built using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RACC); even if schools aren’t closing, many parents will be concerned about their child(ren) returning because of the potential risk of danger.

So how can employers handle these challenges? It is essential that employers balance both the needs of their employees as well as those of the business, whilst remaining compliant with the law; here are some options:

Working from home

Employers who do not currently offer working from home, may wish to consider allowing this, if their children’s school has been forced to close.  Obviously, the age of the child must be considered, and this option is more viable where the child is of secondary school age.  Of course, each set of circumstances must be considered, and it is for the parent to make a judgement on whether they are able to continue working from home.

Time off for dependants

Where an employee is not able to work from home, then all employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants. There is no qualifying service required to be entitled to this, as it is a day one employment right. However, the leave is unpaid (unless the company exceeds the statutory position and pays).

Working from another location

For those employees that face disruption whilst travelling for business, may be able to mitigate against the disruption.  They may be able to continue working remotely whilst waiting for normal travel to resume.

Annual leave, unpaid leave, and TOIL

Consider if you can accommodate sudden requests for time off from work as annual leave or unpaid leave, if the employee does not have enough annual leave remaining.

If an employee has accrued enough time off for extra hours they have previously worked, then the use of time off in lieu (TOIL) is also another option.

What is also crucial, especially if an employee has been stranded overseas, is that they remain in contact with you, and keep you informed for when they are expected to be back in the UK and therefore available for work.

We are here to help

How confident are you in managing unexpected absences? Do your people managers have the tools to manage these situations correctly for the organisation and the employee? If you need support in managing your employees, or training your leaders, Contact Us.

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