News & Views

Riot guidance for concerned employers

BY Gerry O'Hare
Health & Safety
BG Orange

The recent rioting across the UK has affected many businesses, raising a number of HR and health & safety concerns for employers.  We thought that it would be helpful to provide you with some guidelines on the difficult issues that may arise as a consequence.

Health & Safety 

  • all staff should report any suspicious activity to their manager;
  • re-brief all staff on fire and emergency procedures;
  • remove all fire hazards and combustible materials from the premises and immediate surroundings where possible;
  • in the event of an incident, advise all staff / clients / visitors etc to move as far into the building as possible if it is not safe to exit (staying away from windows and external doors);
  • advance plans should be made to secure all access points to the building, especially at ground and basement level, bearing in mind that staff and visitors may be unable to leave;
  • park vehicles in a secure area where possible; and
  • if the workplace is damaged and an employee refuses to work there for health & safety reasons, employers should be wary of taking disciplinary action against or dismissing them. A dismissal in these circumstances could be automatically unfair if the employee has a genuine fear for their safety. (Note there is no qualifying period of service for this protection)

Employment Law / HR

With staff unable to get to or from their place of work because of transport disruption, advice from the police not to travel, or riots in the vicinity of their home or workplace, our previous advice in relation to the severe bad weather and volcanic ash disruption would apply in these circumstances.  Staff unable to attend work are not legally entitled to paid time off, unless their contract explicitly provides for payment in these circumstances.  However, from an employee relations perspective, employers may wish to consider the following options: an ex-gratia payment of wages; the opportunity to make the lost time up elsewhere; for the employee to work from home (if possible); and / or for the employee to take annual leave. 

However, the situation is different where the workplace is closed or unusable because of riot damage.  If this is the case then you should consider:  

(1) whether alternative premises / branches are available.  In these circumstances it may be reasonable to ask staff to travel to another location and / or to carry out temporary duties outwith the scope of their normal role. 

(2) whether the employee can work from home.  This should be encouraged where possible.   

Please note, if these alternatives are not available, or are impractical, staff are entitled to be paid at their normal rate.  

Notwithstanding the above, if the contract of employment permits, staff may be laid off, or short time working implemented.  In these circumstances, if the statutory conditions are met, employees may be entitled to Guarantee Pay.  

It is also possible that destruction of a workplace could “frustrate” the contract. This means that the contract ends automatically, ‘by operation of law’, without a dismissal on the part of the employer or a resignation on the part of the employee, and the parties are discharged from further obligations under it.  In this situation we advise contacting Law At Work to discuss whether, alternatively, a redundancy situation exists.  

Finally, if you discover that an employee has been involved in criminal activity, you should consider whether this affects their employment (for example, their actions may be deemed to bring the organisation into disrepute).  In such situations employers should be careful to follow their normal disciplinary procedures, including a thorough investigation, during which time the employee may be suspended from work. 

If any of these situations affect your business, please speak to your Law At Work Legal Manager to take specific advice.

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