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When the fuel crisis leads to layoffs what’s the legal position?


ACAS Public Enquiry Points (PEPs) have been flooded by callers anxious about the effect the ongoing fuel crisis may have on their
working lives. All eleven PEPs in England, Scotland and Wales have reported hundreds of employers and employees asking how they work when they can't get to work.

Derek Evans, ACAS Chief Conciliator said:

"We have had many employers asking us whether they can lay staff off because off the lack of work as well as employees worried that they may be dismissed if they can't make the journey to work. Our advice is that they follow the good practice as outlined in our advice leaflet "Lay offs and short-time working"

ACAS is advising that:

- A lay-off is defined as a situation where an employee is employed under a contract for work in return for pay, but where the employer does not offer work and there is therefore no entitlement to pay

- If contracts do not contain a specific right for employers to lay-off employees or put them on to short time working then employees should be paid normally

- Employers can only lay-off, or introduce short time working, if any of the following apply:

  • the employment contract allows for this
  • there is a clearly established custom and practice for lay-offs or short time working either in the particular workplace or within the industry
  • there is a collective agreement providing for lay-off that has been incorporated into individual contracts
  • the employee agrees to lay-offs as an alternative to redundancy

- If the contract does not specify the wages to be paid during a lay-off, normal pay is due

- If there is a right to be laid off without pay, employees are entitled to "guarantee pay" of £16.10 per day

Derek Evans added:

"There is no specific legislation to cover the situation where an employee is willing to work but cannot physically get there. Contractual obligations may provide the answer to some questions or indeed, custom and practice."


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