Clarkslegal LLP - Solicitors in Reading and London

Legal Updates

London Riots

09 August 2011 #Employment

The news pictures of the London Riots make depressing viewing. It`s heartbreaking to hear stories of businesses that have taken years to build up being destroyed in minutes.  This is especially so, given that these businesses are already fighting for survival on an economic front. 

Burnt-out shells of buildings are being likened to the images of the London Blitz.  This is misplaced. The reality is almost more depressing.  The aggressor in this case is seemingly a mass of bored, disaffected youth, after the latest HD plasma screen TV. As one commentator has stated, this Spring we saw the Arab youth unite and protest for basic freedoms and democracy.  This Summer we witness the London Youth unite to loot the latest designer sportswear.

Over the coming weeks, we can expect the causes of the riots and the police response to be endlessly picked-over by the press, politicians and community leaders.   Whatever the causes and however foreseeable these events may have been, the clean-up operation has begun. 

Options for employers

At the extreme end, some staff will have turned up for work this morning to find their workplace has been razed to ground.  Other businesses will be suffering superficial damage and will take less time to be up and running again.  Then there are the neighbouring shops, offices and restaurants that may be temporarily inaccessible due to their proximity to the trouble spots.  Staff themselves may struggle to get to work due to travel disruption.

As businesses and communities seek to restore their high streets, what are the options for employers and employees who have been affected by the riots?

Where the impact looks as though it will be short-term employers could get staff to agree to:

  • Help with any clean-up of the business premises (subject to health & safety precautions) until normal business can resume;
  • Take paid annual leave; or
  • Unpaid leave until open for business again;

For staff unable to get to work due to travel disruption, working from home could be an option. 

Where longer-term business closure is likely, the alternative may be to lay-off workers. It means the employment relationship continues and employees are paid a statutory rate of pay, but the obligation on the employer to provide work is temporarily suspended. However, there is no automatic right to lay off employees - this can only be done where there is a contractual right to do so.  See Buddy`s factsheet on Lay-off for more information.

Sadly, where premises are nothing but a burnt out shell, those businesses are unlikely to resume normal service for months, years or at all. Tragically, there may be no choice but to make staff redundant.  See Buddy`s Redundancy factsheet for more information.

Situations like this are thankfully, rare.  However, it is always wise for businesses to plan for the unexpected where man made or natural disasters can give rise to emergency situations.  (See Buddy`s Emergency Preparations Policy.) 

Either way, the position many businesses and employees are finding themselves in today seems so needless. Let`s hope for London and elsewhere that this is the end of it.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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