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How you can help staff stranded abroad in Sharm el-Sheik (or anywhere else)

Last week, the downing of a Russian airliner leaving Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport shook the world. There is no concrete news yet as to what caused the tragic crash, so the UK government is rightfully taking every precaution necessary to keep its citizens abroad safe. Concerns were raised regarding the security measures currently employed at the airport, so flights back to the UK were stopped until officials could investigate and raise security standards.  This left 20,000 Brits stranded, and some employers with confusion. What are the protocols for something like this? Do you pay staff stranded abroad until they’re home? We’ve got some answers.

Typically, employees who are absent from work are not always entitled to be paid unless it’s authorised. But in instances such as this, where the absence is out of their control due to a security threat, any good employer would normally show leniency if affordable to keep them on the payroll. Leaving a staff member short at the end of the month after such a traumatic experience is likely to cause upset. It may even spark the end of an employment relationship that could have easily been avoided.

Depending on the role the employee has, they may be able to work remotely during their stay in Sharm el-Sheikh. These days, with the right equipment and an internet connection, staff can be productive all over the world – something that may not have been possible ten years ago! This means they may be able to make that call, get that presentation done and participate in that team meeting digitally. It must be carefully considered whether it’s necessary for them to do this though, as they’re undoubtedly already in a very stressful situation. You should consider whether you would be willing to pay any expenses incurred working remotely e.g. Wi-Fi charges, phone bills etc. back to the employee.

Whilst they’re away, their workload should continue to be managed as it was whilst they were on holiday. This should suffice in most cases as they’re unlikely to be away for too long. Ensure the team covering their workload all understand the situation to prevent any negativity. Upon their return, it would be advisable to reacquaint them with goings on at work, ensuring they’re up to speed.

We would advise all employers to ensure they have policies in place recognising transport disruption and disaster contingency plans. This will help ensure you and your staff are prepared for all eventualities: be it a dose of bad winter weather (on its way…) or something like the current tragedy (and its knock-on effects) in Sharm el-Sheikh. Get in touch with The HR Dept – we can put those policies in place for you and advise on any of the above.