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An Employer’s Guide to Managing Staff During Transport Disruption

Last week London Underground workers went on strike for 48 hours, angry over ticket office closures and job cuts. It’s the usual Pavlovian dinosaur response to any sort of change. With three million people using the Underground network it was inevitable that there would be major disruptions to the daily routine. So what advice should employers be giving to staff to ensure business as usual?

Most disruption to transport comes with a forewarning, whether that road closures or public transport strikes. Last week commuters were made aware of the strike due to the posters in London Tube Stations (and of course through national media) warning of the disruption it would cause giving them the opportunity to plan ahead. So rule number one, plan ahead. If there is going to be disruption to a journey, think about alternatives. That could mean an alternative route or alternative transport. Through the tube strike, Transport for London put an extra 100 buses on the road and even extra boats on the Thames which ran frequently during peak hours. Make sure all employees are given advanced notice where possible, making them aware of the disruptions; send round memos, put up notices in staff areas and remind staff in team meetings. It could also mean thinking about alternative working hours to avoid the worst of the strike-inflamed extended rush hours or if the work permits it, allow employees to work from home or at a different venue. Other alternatives are the old stand-bys of allowing the day is taken as holiday leave, paid or unpaid, or making up the time on another day.

Secondly; if you really require the employees to come to work allow extra time and accept that time keeping may be more flexible. One option is to book overnight accommodation for employees. It’s not a cheap option, but if staff absolutely, positively have to be there, it’s worth considering. Hofstadter's Law says things always take longer than you think they’re going to. You can double that when the toothsome Bob Crow takes the RMT out on strike. A disruption to the normal route usually means that an alternative route will take longer and you’ll be sharing that alternative route with hundreds of others so the public transport that is available will be hideously crowded. Walking or cycling to work may prove the more attractive option. Try to include a Plan B for any alternative routes planned just in case of further changes.

Next, check for updates. There is so much real time information available online through apps and social network sites that will keep people updated of any changes that happen.

While strikes of this type add considerable (and it’s to be hoped short-term) misery to the life of the average worker, if you plan for it and make adjustments as needed, there’s no reason in most cases why people can’t get to work. Make employees aware that absence in a tube strike will be treated in the same way that absences would normally be treated.

Industrial action of this type normally achieves little, yet costs a great deal to both those involved in the strikes (not Mr Crow whose £145k salary is still paid irrespective of strike action) and business in general. It also causes inconvenience at best and misery at worst. What an utter waste of time.

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