The recent eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull
and the subsequent travel disruption caused by the millions of tons
of volcanic ash it released into the atmosphere has highlighted a
difficult employment law situation.
Many thousands of employees were left stranded abroad as a
result of the closure of UK airspace following the volcano's
eruption, and this had a significant impact on many British
So what are the legal implications of such a situation for
employers? The case is similar to that which employers faced
earlier this year, when severe snow storms left many roads
impassable and a significant number of employees were unable to
travel to work. In these circumstances, workers are not entitled to
be paid for their absence, even though they are not at fault.
Employees can be given the option of either using some of their
holiday entitlement to cover their absence or taking unpaid leave
for the period they are unable to get to work. However, some
employers elect to pay absent employees in such circumstances as a
gesture of goodwill. Notably, Asda has taken this option as a
Although it is inconvenient and frustrating for employers to
lose key staff members during such periods of disruption, as the
circumstances are beyond the employee's control, disciplinary
action should not be taken.
However, if a worker does not inform their employer of the
reason for their absence and fails to keep them updated on their
circumstances throughout their absence, they may be in breach of
the Absence Reporting Procedure, which could result in disciplinary
action being taken.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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