A shortage of HGV drivers has been blamed for the recent fuel crisis, but as the army are being drafted in to ease the pressure, what are your rights if you can’t get to work because of the fuel shortage?
Can I be dismissed if I can’t get to work?
Your employer cannot instantly dismiss you just because you couldn’t get to work because of a lack of fuel. If they did, it would likely be considered as unfair dismissal. If you are in a role that means you can work from home until the issues have been resolved, your position is strengthened further.
However, your employer could insist you use public transport, although some workers may want to avoid this if they are vulnerable, due to Covid concerns. It will be potentially unreasonable to insist that an employee use public transport to get to work if they have raised genuine health and safety concerns.
Additionally, if you have children, you are entitled to take time off to look after them if the fuel shortage prevents them getting to school. This is called ‘dependent’s leave’ and may be paid or unpaid depending on your employer or contract of employment.
However, if you do take time off, and are unable to work from home, your employer is under no obligation to pay you. There is no legal right for an employee to be paid for working time they have missed due to travel disruption. Some workplaces may have policies that cover such a situation, so it’s a good idea to check.
If you cannot get to your workplace and your job cannot be done at home, then your employer can ask you to take unpaid leave or annual leave to cover the time off. If you decide to take annual leave, you will be paid as usual, while if you take unpaid leave, you will miss out on pay for the period you were away.
If you are worried about getting to your place of work, you should speak to your boss as soon as possible to try and work out a solution. A spokesperson for ACAS said: “If staff can’t get into work due to transport problems then they should tell their employer as soon as possible.”
Can I be fined if I can’t get the kids to school?
If a child is late on at least ten occasions in a three-month period, parents will be liable for a fine. If you can prove the fuel shortage is to blame, it is unlikely a fine will be imposed.
Hopefully, the fuel shortage will only be a temporary blip, however there are indications it could become a longer-term issue. It is advisable for both employers and employees to consider the potential impact this will have and plan and communicate accordingly.