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30 September 2021

The fuel shortage is causing widespread difficulties for people across the country, including creating problems for employers. Employees are facing commuter struggles due to the inability to get fuel for their cars; but with a depleted workforce, businesses aren’t able to perform as efficiently. As a result, many might be unable to complete necessary functions and meet their customers’ demands. This is causing headaches for HR teams with three key issues arising, explored below. 

Employees say they can’t get to work

The first consideration employers should discuss with their staff is whether they are able to get to work in a different way. They should explore the options of car-sharing, utilising public transport or adjusting working hours to accommodate transport timetables. If this isn’t possible, employers should look at whether their role can be temporarily amended. This might allow them to work from home or work from a different site which they are able to access. Otherwise, employees may wish to book last-minute annual leave or utilise accrued time off in lieu to ensure they still get paid during this time. In all other situations, there is no obligation to maintain full pay if the employee is unable to work, unless there is a contractual entitlement which offers payment (this will be rare).

Employees have to stay at home because they can’t take their kids to school

As outlined above, employers should first explore all available options to allow them to continue working; including, working from home or getting the children to school in another way. If the employee doesn’t want to use annual leave or time off in lieu, they may instead take emergency time off for dependants. Whether or not this situation is deemed as meeting the critieria attaced to the right to take time off in an emergency situation which involves a dependant would come down to the individual facts of the case. However, it likely would be unreasonable if employers do not authorise short-term unpaid leave until a longer-term solution can be found.

Employees can’t complete their role as a driver because there’s no petrol for them to drive

Organisations should start by looking at what other jobs they could temporarily allocate their drivers to do, to ensure they still receive full pay throughout the fuel shortage. For example, asking them to complete office-based administration roles, such as filing, answering calls or reviewing paperwork. Where there are no other options, employers can place their affected staff on lay-off. This is when there is no work for employees to do, but they remain employed and are still expected to be available for work when needed. If there are no contractual entitlements to pay whilst on lay off, employees who have worked for at least 1 month will be entitled to Statutory Guarantee Pay (SGP). This is paid at a rate of £30 per day for a maximum of 5 working days within a 3 month period.

It is hoped that the fuel shortage will be short-lived and the government has announced plans to get more HGV drivers on the roads to get fuel distributed. However, employers should be prepared for dealing with any HR issues associated with the petrol situation and have plans in place to continue working with minimal disruption.