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Iceland volcano: Forum advises businesses how to manage stranded staff

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is advising smaller employers affected by the volcano in Iceland erupting to be flexible with stranded staff – but know when to draw the line on unpaid leave.

Many small businesses are continuing to struggle in the wake of the worst recession in a generation and employers should be aware of the impact on cash flow of a drop in productivity because of employee absence, particularly with signs that demand is improving.

FPB, which guides its members through their employment law obligations and responsibilities, is urging firms to keep in regular communication with staff stuck abroad and unable to make it back to work.

Unless remote working is an option, businesses could offer staff discretionary paid leave for a fixed period. However, there is no compulsion to do so and this should be followed by an offer of unpaid leave or suggesting that absent workers take additional holidays covering the period they are away.

“The key thing is to keep in touch so you have the fullest information possible about your employees and their travel situation,” said FPB’s employment adviser Ross Meadows, of Mace and Jones Solicitors. “Obviously it’s not their fault that they are unable to make it to work so it’s down to an employer’s discretion whether or not to offer paid leave, at least up to a point.

“But, after a certain time, it is advisable that this becomes unpaid leave unless the staff member wants to take extra holidays.

"Hopefully more airports will open shortly and, despite the inevitable backlog, the situation should improve soon and employers will get their people back.”

As part of its HR Director business support solution FPB publishes an annually updated Employment Guide, which is also available online. The guide is written by employment law specialists Employment Law Advisory Services, and takes businesses step by step through every aspect of employing a person and complying with the law. The organisation also provides a 24-hour legal advice line offering information and guidance on employment law.

The Forum of Private Business is a not-for-profit organisation. For more information call FPB on 0845 612 6266 or visit www.fpb.org

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