What can you do if your employees are late due to public transport chaos?

You may have seen that one of this week’s headlines is the nationwide disruption to public transport due to bad weather. Public transport issues make for late employees and this may cause you to ask – what position am I in if an employee is late through no fault of their own?

In short, there is no obligation to pay employees who fail to attend work, or who arrive late, due to public transport disruption, unless there is a specific contractual provision for this. The onus is on the employee to arrive to work on time.

However, the matter gets more complicated when taking into account employee morale. Despite not being an unlawful deduction of wages under s.13 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, deducting someone’s wages due to cancelled trains may be seen as a slightly over the top move, especially if they only arrive late by a few minutes and their lateness is a one off.

An employer might consider a harsher approach if the employee seems to be regularly delayed due to their method of getting to work. In this case, they should first encourage the employees to explore alternative means of transport. In some cases, perhaps a flexible working situation would be more appropriate, where if the employee arrives 15 minutes late, they may add that time on to the end of their day.

In conclusion, every situation is unique. Punishment for punishment’s sake may not be viewed lightly by your workforce and could cause low employee morale. However, if an employee is consistently late this may impact business productivity. The best way to ensure fairness is to have an adverse weather and travel disruption policy, which can lay out a level of discretion in the case of a cancelled train or delayed bus.


If you need help on an individual case of employee-lateness, or don’t have an up-to-date adverse weather and travel disruption policy, please contact our Employment Team on 0161 926 1508, or follow our employment law-specific Twitter account @HRGuruUK.