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The recent announcement about upcoming air traffic control strikes will be sending travellers and employers into panic mode. The strikes, which have arisen due to a dispute over pay, working hours, and staffing issues at Eurocontrol, could result in the rescheduling or cancellation of up to 12,600 daily flights during the busiest summer months.
Workers at Eurocontrol have expressed their dissatisfaction with current working conditions and have chosen to stage a walkout to voice their concerns. The strikes have prompted widespread disruptions, affecting the travel plans of thousands of passengers.
Notably, EasyJet, one of the major airlines operating at Gatwick Airport, recently announced the cancellation of 1,700 summer flights primarily from this location.
The impact of these strikes extends beyond inconvenience for passengers, it also begs the question for employers as to what to do if an employee becomes stranded abroad. Should they be paid? Should they take additional holiday?
Travel disruption causing chaos is something that employers have become more familiar with in recent years, in particular due to extreme weather conditions and the pandemic. As a result, many employers now have policies in place covering the expectations in cases of travel disruption, and those who don’t would be well advised to implement one ahead of the upcoming summer holidays. This should include what happens in the event an employee is stranded abroad – in particular will they be paid, will they be required to use additional holiday, take unpaid leave, or even work from their location?
Is a stranded employee entitled to pay?
The most pressing question will be whether the employee has a right to be paid when they’re stranded and can’t get to work through no fault of their own. The answer will depend on the contract of employment and any policies. Assuming an employer has no provisions in place, it will be unlikely that the employee is entitled to pay – assuming their trip is for leisure (even if it started as a business trip).
Employers can’t be expected to pick up the tab for cancelled flights, equally, everyone needs a break from work – is it reasonable to expect an employee to cancel a trip abroad just in case they get stranded? You might think so, but it’s unlikely to make for positive employee relations.
So what happens if an employee does get stuck abroad and can’t get to work?
It’s unlikely to be a very long delay, the pragmatic approach for an employer in these circumstances is to engage in collaborative discussion with the employee (hopefully, based on an existing travel disruption policy) and explore the options:
- Take further paid holiday
- Take unpaid leave
- Consider whether it is possible for the employee to work remotely (although this carries its own set of potential difficulties so is unlikely to often be suitable)
- Consider whether there is a good case for the employee continuing to be paid, for example, if they find themselves stranded abroad whilst on business.
Prevention is always better than cure, so if you don’t already have a travel disruption policy in place – get typing!
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