Public services strike on 31 May

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

The public transport companies De Lijn, STIB/MIVB, TEC and SNCB/NMBS have announced that bus, tram, underground and train traffic may be heavily disrupted because their staff will take part in the trade union actions on 31 May.

As a consequence, it is foreseeable that some workers will arrive late or will be unable to get to work at all.

Does an employer have to pay staff for the working time not worked due to disrupted public transport?

Principle

Under Article 27, 1° of the Employment Contract Act of 3 July 1978, full daily wages are due to the worker if, at the time of reporting to work he is able to work and if he, getting to the place of work in a normal way, arrives late or fails to turn up at all, provided that this delay or absence are due to a cause that occurred on the way to work and that is independent of his will.

Application

Workers who arrive late or do not arrive at all at their place of work because of disrupted public transport can, in principle, not be entitled to wages for the hours not worked.

The disruptions were in fact announced several days ago. The media widely reported this information. The reason for the delay or absence at work (disrupted public transport) is therefore not unexpected and comes before the worker's departure. Consequently, the worker could have made alternative arrangements to arrive to work on time.

=> Still, a good degree of common sense and understanding is required. Even if the worker takes all necessary measures (e.g. leaving earlier), he is not always sure whether he will arrive to work on time. It is also possible that the worker cannot make it into work because it is impossible to use his own car, he cannot be taken to work by a colleague or go on foot.

Important remark

To avoid any subsequent dispute, employers are strongly urged to notify all their workers in advance that no pay will normally be granted to any worker for working time not worked on Tuesday 31 May 2016 due to disrupted public transport.

Workers who do not wish to suffer any loss of pay may, by agreement with their employer, take a day’s holiday or time off in lieu.

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