• Expect the Unexpected
  • June 1, 2010
  • Law Firm: Withers Bergman LLP/Withers LLP - New Haven Office
  • 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.