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Retales™: Impact of riots on retailers

Nick Thorpe
12/08/2011

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United Kingdom

Retales™: Impact of riots on retailers

Many retailers have been heavily affected by the rioting over the past few days, not only across London but also further afield, including in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.  As the clean up operation begins, many retailers are assessing the impact of the recent riots on their workforce. Some employees may be unable to attend work if their place of employment has been damaged in the riots. Others may struggle to travel into work if their journeys have been affected or may be concerned about their safety and request to leave early to avoid any unrest. So what are the key considerations for retailers?

  • Communication - as events have changed quickly over recent days, retailers should ensure they clearly communicate any options and contingency plans to employees so they are fully aware of the latest advice and any precautionary measures that need to be taken. 
  • Health and safety - employers have a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of employees. Employees may be willing to support their employers in the current circumstances, but care should be taken before asking employees to continue to work in a potentially dangerous environment.
  • Pay - where employees are unable to attend work due to the riots, some retailers may be wondering whether to withhold pay from employees during this time. However, to make a deduction from wages, without an agreement, is risky. Retailers should review the terms of their employment contracts and also consider whether it would be appropriate to rely on any contractual lay off or short time working provisions. 
  • Flexibility - if employees are unable to attend work, retailers have a range of options, including paying employees but requiring them to make the time up at a later date; requiring employees to take the days as annual leave; or reassigning employees to other branches. Depending on the size of the organisation, reassigning employees might be an appropriate solution for some retailers.  However, retailers will need to consider whether employment contracts contain an adequate mobility clause to enable reassignment, even on a temporary basis.

This is a particularly challenging time for many employers, with retailers bearing the brunt of the widespread disorder. For further advice on how to deal with the impact of the riots on your workforce, please contact Nick Thorpe, Partner and Gemma Rusling, Solicitor (Employment and Pensions Group). 

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