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London employees face pay cuts if they don't make it to work during tube strikes

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Employees who cannot make it to work due to tube strikes could face pay docks, according to legal experts.

With industrial action by underground maintenance staff at well as operational workers including drivers, station staff and signalers taking place across London today, employers are under no legal obligation to pay staff if they do not turn up for work.

Jim Lister, head of employment at Manchester law firm Pannone, said: "Generally, an employer only has the duty to pay an employee who is willing and able to do work; if an employee fails to turn up for work the employer is under no legal obligation to pay them. 

"As there is no general legal obligation to pay staff unable to get into work, employers could reduce their employees' pay, force their employees to use their holidays or agree to pay them on the condition that they make up the lost time by working unpaid overtime at a later date.  

"But taking this approach might have a negative impact on staff morale.  It is also worth remembering many staff work additional time for free during the remainder of the year, starting work early or leaving late and they may be less inclined to do so if morale is low.  For many employers the loss of morale and the administrative burden of calculating the loss of pay will outweigh the potential benefit."

But according to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry,  each day the underground is shut, the economy could suffer losses of £48 million.

Phoebe Leet, head of HR operations, Cisco UK & Ireland, said: "Work should be an activity, not a place. At Cisco, we make every effort to give our employees the tools they need to work remotely and flexibly. While this is hugely beneficial during unexpected events such as this week’s tube strikes or the ashcloud problems earlier in the year, it isn’t something that just comes into play during extreme circumstances. A recent in-house survey showed that, on average, 63% of our employees’ working time is spent communicating and collaborating with as much as 56 percent of all employees’ work accomplished away from their desks. With ever more businesses realising the value of remote working tools, both in terms of increasing productivity and improving work-life balance, hopefully the problems caused by these disruptions will soon be a thing of the past."

And Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), added: "This strike action could not have come at a worse time with the capital only just beginning to find its feet after a difficult economic slowdown and many returning to work after the summer break.  Londoners will still struggle in to work, aided by the additional transport laid on by the Mayor, but the capital will not be as productive as normal and our reputation as the world’s leading business centre will suffer."
"We sincerely hope that this will be the last round of strike action and we urge both sides of the dispute to return to the negotiating table to find a quick resolution."