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Ash affected staff ‘not entitled to wages’

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As volcanic ash continues its assault on British airspace, employment law experts are warning those affected that they are not entitled to paid time off work, as “everyone is a loser” when it comes to acts of nature.

With many employees struggling to reach home after Easter breaks, hard-pressed employers could insist that unplanned absence is treated as unpaid leave if workers have reached the limit of their annual holiday allowance.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) believes many firms will struggle to meet the cost of paying staff overtime to cover for colleagues stranded overseas by the flight ban, and will also face extra costs due to lost business opportunities.

“The whole situation could cost businesses a lot of money and employers generally take the view that pay is given for work that is actually done,” said Stephen Alambritis, chief spokesman for the FSB. “We foresee employment tribunals further down the line because of this unless firms have a clearly agreed policy on authorised absence.”

But the idea of docking wages for those affected by Iceland’s volcanic eruptions has caused outrage across employment unions.

Speaking to the BBC, Chris Keates, General Secretary for NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers) claimed that employers should tread carefully when considering deductions.

“This situation is affecting workers and workplaces nationally and internationally,” said Mr Keates. “Employers should be warned that they are vulnerable to a legal challenge for unlawful deduction of salary if they seek to penalise teachers in this way.”

While employers will not welcome the damaging effect of travel turmoil, widespread absenteeism is not uncommon following recent swine flue epidemics and employers should make sure penalties for missing work are fully explained to employees before contemplating salaries.

“It seems unfair if people lost money because of a situation which is out of their control,” added a spokesman for the TUC. “Different employers will have different leave arrangements but it is hoped they can come to an agreement if they are not prepared to allow staff extra time off.”

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Written by Andrew Hodges

April 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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