Lorraine Teague, partner and employment law specialist at Shakespeares says that unlike salaried employees who are usually paid regardless of their specific working hours, workers paid on an hourly basis usually only receive pay for the hours they work, even when these payments are made on a monthly basis. Therefore, casual or hourly-paid workers who were sent home early due to the riots – or could not work because of damage caused to the business premises – would not normally expect to be paid for the time that they did not actually work.
However, employers may need to ask themselves whether not paying workers is the right thing to do. Even if there is no obligation to pay, it may be appropriate for the employer to consider doing so, perhaps as a means of rewarding staff for their loyalty in coming to work.
To alleviate the cost burden on the business, employers could seek the agreement of the affected employees to make up the time. If a decision is taken to pay workers regardless of the time they actually worked, it is important that employers make it clear that this is a one-off decision and won’t necessarily be repeated if similar circumstances arise in the future.
Regardless of whether they have been directly affected by the riots or not, it would be sensible for all businesses to consider their policy regarding business interruptions and situations where it is not possible to keep the business premises open.
In such circumstances, the business could specify that hourly-paid workers will not be paid for the duration of the business interruption or if they are paid for this time, the payment will be discretionary.
Of course, some businesses will have been worse affected than others by the recent riots. Some may have seen attendance levels drop as employees reacted to the situation and in some instances, this could be due to malingering.
Where employers believe a worker may have been taking advantage of the situation they should speak to the individual directly to find out more about why they didn’t turn up for work.
For example, if the worker was frightened to come to work even though the business is not centrally located and they were not required to work after dark, there could be another reason for this. The worker may need to travel through a badly-affected area or they may have been mugged in the past, which could make them more fearful that such a thing could happen again. The full picture should be considered before deciding whether disciplinary action is appropriate.
In an unraveling situation, where a business finds itself a target of vandalism or other criminal activity, there is little time to think. First and foremost employers have a duty of care to their employees and all businesses should have clear guidelines in place telling them what steps to take to protect staff in such circumstances.
The riots will have caused many businesses to consider their own response and some may need to review their procedures.