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The last few weeks of this year, and the beginning of 2023 look set to be marked by further chaos on the rails as more than 40,000 railway workers stage a series of 48-hour strikes as part of a dispute over jobs, conditions and pay.

We’ve already seen the disruption walk-outs can cause, intermittent strikes over the summer and early autumn forced events to be cancelled, some commutes to be lengthened and workers to stay home as heading into the office proved impossible.

Though many of us have become more accustomed to working from home over the past few years, and a lot of businesses are now better adapted to allowing employees to stay home if they’re unable to make it into the office, not all are able to accommodate this. So as an employee, do you have any rights if travel disruption keeps you from work, or if your office must close because of strike action?

Employers’ discretion

Our Legal Assistance Helpline (LAH) often receives calls on this subject if strike action is mooted, and the short answer is, no – under the terms of most employment contracts, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to get themselves into work under their own steam, even if their usual commute is disrupted. Though this could mean having to get a pricey taxi to get to their place of work, employers typically have no obligation to pay these travel costs, and certainly have no obligation to pay an employee who hasn’t turned up for work.

In some cases, employers may be open to discussing the matter, allowing the employee to either work from home, or take the day as annual or unpaid leave, but this is at their discretion.

If, however, the workplace is forced to shut due to strike action, or the business chooses to close its doors, employees may be entitled to payment, unless their contract has a provision for unpaid lay-off.

Three strikes and you’re out?

We sometimes get asked if employees could face disciplinary action if they’re frequently unable to attend work due to strike action. If employees believe they may be repeatedly impacted by travel disruption, they should discuss the problem with their manager who may be able to work with them to find a temporary solution, whether that’s taking the time as leave, working from home or potentially switching shifts.

However, if an employee repeatedly doesn’t turn up for work without notifying their manager, they could face being disciplined or dismissed for unauthorised absence. If this happens, we’d always recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible if the employee feels the dismissal is unfair.

As we enter another period of intermittent strike action, our recommendation is to discuss the issue with your manager as soon as possible to find a mutually beneficial resolution and ensure that you’re not at risk of going without pay, or worse, losing your job.

Mike Jenkins, Head of Legal Advice, Arc Legal Group

For further information on the above, or details of our products and services, please contact your Partnerships Manager or email


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