Business Insight

Advice for employers on dealing with the Bus Éireann strike

Alan Hickey, Head of Legal and Advisory in Peninsula Ireland, on how employers can deal with the impact of the Bus Éireann strike on employees' ability to get to work

 Employees on stike in Dublin. Picture by PA

Bus Éireann workers began indefinite strike action on March 24 in a long running dispute over proposed changes to working practices and efficiency measures which would save the struggling transport organisation in the region of €12 million per annum (nine per cent of their payroll costs).

Five trade unions involved announced an escalation of industrial action which will bring fresh travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

The strike will have an impact on employees’ ability to get to work. 

What if my employee cannot get to work?

Speak to the employee and see if any alternative arrangements can be made. For example:

  • Working from home (this may only be viable if the employee is set up to work from home ie: working from home will not significantly adversely affect productivity)
  • Agree a period of annual leave in the short term
  • Enforce annual leave in the long term (working time legislation requires an employer to issue one month’s notice of a requirement to take annual leave. This is quite a lengthy timeframe and hopefully the strike matters will have been resolved     by then but it may be advisable to put employees on notice of this requirement now should matters remain unresolved).
  • Permit the employee to use any time off in lieu they have banked

The employee will be paid as normal if any of the above are used. Alternatively, arrange a temporary period of flexible working of earlier or later starts according to what may be more practical because of the trains. This may mean a week of unpleasant disruption for the employee but i) that is the effect intended by a strike but ii) employers are within their rights to expect that contractual obligations are still met if the employee wants to be paid as normal. Employers may be seen as the ‘bad guy’ if they cannot be flexible but the strike is not their fault.

Do I need to pay the employee if they are late?
Unless employees have a contractual right to be paid when they are late, employees are not entitled to be paid for time they have missed because they are late. Employers could arrange with the employee for the time to be made up elsewhere to maintain full pay.

What about my employees who are parents of children whose school is shut because teachers can’t get to work?
Employees do not have a legislative entitlement to time off in these circumstances. Accordingly, the employee would need to agree annual leave, unpaid leave, etc with their employer. If the parent cannot source alternative childcare then it would be advisable for the employers to be as flexible as possible in this respect.  

Additional considerations
Unavailability of public transport could lead to increased number of staff that might drive to work. Employers could facilitate this by ensuring employees are aware of the parking facilities offered by company/retail park/building. Also offering alternative parking facilities in the vicinity and possibly prices/space availability could improve the level of lateness greatly. 

Employees should be encouraged identify alternative means of attending work. Are there private bus operators who are stepping in to cover services for example? Employees could also be encouraged to cycle to work and employers could provide the Bike to Work scheme details for the employees. Another option that could be suggested to employees would be to car pool and employers can perhaps facilitate this by offering to post notices on noticeboards or staff forums.

Alan Hickey is head of legal and advisory in Peninsula Ireland 

Business Insight

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