25 May 2010

Expect the unexpected

Lisa Lewinsohn
Senior Associate | UK

Recent events, including clouds of volcanic ash, record snowfalls, rail strikes, and a potential swine flu epidemic, have caused major disruption to UK employers. 

To help organisations with contingency planning, we set out below a checklist of some of the employment-related issues that could arise in a contingency planning exercise.


  • Consider whether and how to involve employees with planning.
  • Use any existing consultation mechanisms such as staff councils or trade unions.

* Illness, injury and epidemics*

  • Check your absence and sickness policies and payment levels they commit you to.
  • Consider the impact of large numbers of employees being absent unexpectedly.

Closed schools and sick dependants

  • Check your policies on time off when care arrangements fall through or dependants fall ill.
  • Remember the statutory rights that employees might rely on: holiday, time off in emergencies or parental leave.
  • Consider whether you could sustain more generous contractual rights in a large-scale emergency.

Travel disruption and remote working

  • Draw up reporting rules that will apply to employees who cannot get to work.
  • Draw up a remote working policy or adapt any existing policy for emergencies.
  • Decide which jobs can be done remotely.
  • Make sure there is enough technological support for key employees to work away from the office.
  • Set out absence and payment policies for employees who cannot work remotely.

Health, safety and security

  • Issue guidelines on health and safety to employees working remotely.
  • Put in place measures to protect confidential information from accidental disclosure or loss.
  • Consider how to protect the safety and security of office equipment away from the office.

Business travellers should

  • Not be penalised financially for travel disruption.
  • Be helped with accommodation and alternative means of travel, despite the cost.
  • Not be pressurised into taking undue risks in order to get back to work.

Temporary solutions

  • Factor the costs of emergency temporary staff into your planning.
  • Make sure that temporary contracts are drafted flexibly to cover changing business needs.

Keeping up to date

  • You may need to update contracts, policies or handbooks to cover contingency planning.
  • Check whether your contracts and policies allow for this.
  • Consult with employees, employee representatives or unions as appropriate.
  • Deal fairly with any objections.
  • Consider how to communicate any changes.

Keeping trouble at bay

  • Check whether changes have a potentially discriminatory effect and whether you could defend them.
  • Put training or briefings in place to make sure that managers make fair, consistent, non-discriminatory decisions in applying changed policies and procedures.
  • Consider whether you need to monitor remote working.
  • Check whether abuse of absence policies is covered in your disciplinary procedure.
Lisa Lewinsohn Senior Associate | London

Category: Article