, October 23, 2021

Fuel crisis, hybrid working and the stranded worker


  •   2 min reads
Fuel crisis, hybrid working and the stranded worker

Some workers are stranded; maybe their employer doesn't or can't operate a hybrid working model, so what can be done about staff who can't get to work?

The fuel crisis won't last, although higher fuel costs might be with us for several years; even so, right now, the advantages of electric vehicles have never been more apparent. As for hybrid working, the shortage of fuel making travel by car so challenging highlights an advantage of this working practice.

But hybrid working isn't always practical; in some cases, companies need workers to be physically present at the office or factory.

Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, partner at law firm DMH Stallard said that "employers who have a hybrid working model will see its advantages when employees are prevented from getting to work due to circumstances outside their control. The current crisis can be added to the business continuity plans of bad weather, terrorist attacks and public transport strikes."

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We have purposefully stayed away from the discussion around home working and the acronym WFH (work from home - for those emerging from caves, comas and spaceships) - until now. Here’s the Techopian take, so far...

She added: "However, for those employers that need their employees somewhere other than the comfort of their own home, questions will be raised as to how reasonable it is to insist on attendance, and in the absence of that attendance, not to pay staff or even take action against them for non-attendance."

"Although public transport may be an option, some employees will be reluctant to use it due to Covid concerns."

What then should companies in this position do?

Ms Thornley-Gibson suggested that "it will be potentially unreasonable to insist that an employee uses public transport to get to work where they have raised genuine health and safety concerns, but that does not mean an employer will have to pay an employee who does not attend work due to the transport difficulties."

Then again, we are also in the era of staff shortages, and as the baby boomer generation retires, such shortages will only worsen.

"A reasonable employer should look at the bigger picture and consider allowing employees to take annual leave, swap working days, vary start and finish times and perhaps organise its own company transport for staff," offered Thornley-Gibson.

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The employer-employee relationship is pivoting; demographic changes, skill shortages and new technologies are creating a talent shortage, and it is one of the most significant changes of our time.

Maybe there is more to this than being reasonable— establishing a reputation as a reasonable employer is likely to be essential to remain competitive in the labour market.

"At a time when labour shortages are the very reason for the current crisis, it would be somewhat ironic to add to employer woes by alienating the employee hand that feeds them," said Thornley-Gibson.

Somewhat ironic indeed, maybe it would also be bad business sense.

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