Petrol shortages: Do I still have to go to work if I run out of fuel?

Borneville, Birmingham Credit: PA Images

Fuel shortages across the Midlands continue to dominate everyone's lives and in particular transport to and from work.

It comes as BP initially began to 'ration' fuel deliveries as some petrol stations close over supply problems.

Since then, more and more petrol stations have had to close their petrol pumps because there hasn't been enough deliveries to meet the demand from panic buying.

So, do you still have to go to work if you run out of fuel?

A lawyer in Birmingham has said if you're struggling to get to work at the moment there are some practical steps you can take.

Matt McDonald, who is partner and expert employment solicitor at Shakespeare Martineu in Birmingham, said you could ask your employer for some help.

A BP petrol station in Birmingham has ran out of fuel. Credit: PA

Can you complain to your boss if you have to find alternative modes of transport?

You may well raise a complaint in travelling to work, however "ultimately it is up to the employee how they get to and from work," Mr McDonald said.

The lawyer added: "Where an alternative mode of transport is feasible, employees who complain are unlikely to be in a strong position."

"Employers who choose to cover extra travel costs will largely be doing so to maintain goodwill rather than because of any legal obligation."

A sign advising customers to only fill up with 30 litres of fuel and that no diesel is available stands outside a Shell petrol station. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

What if I have to travel by car to visit clients?

Mr McDonald said the position is different for those employees driving for work, for example visiting customers or clients.

He adds: "For travel of this nature, the employer is much more involved and can’t simply ask an employee to use alternative forms of transport and expect them to accept any extra cost.

"At the very least, the employer would be expected to cover the costs of trains or taxis, for example, and it’s important to communicate with employees clearly on this front so they understand what is required of them."

What happens if I cannot get into work without my car and I am unable to fill up fuel?

Mr McDonald said: "If an employee fails to attend work without good reason, this will generally be a disciplinary matter."

"However, it’s important not to jump to conclusions and to investigate any incident thoroughly," he adds.

The lawyer said if there are feasible alternatives, such as working from home in the short-term then it may be "harsh to expect employees in this situation to pay for taxis", particularly as many employees simply won't be able to attend work other than by car.

Mr McDonald advises: "Hopefully, the fuel shortage will only be a temporary problem. However, there are suggestions it could become a longer-term issue, so employers would be wise to think through the impact this will have on their various different employees and to plan and communicate with staff accordingly."

I am a manager, can I ask my teams to use alternative transport, even if it costs more?

"If it’s feasible for employees to commute using alternative transport, you can ask them to do so. If this results in the employee incurring additional costs or having to travel for longer, technically, this isn’t an employer’s problem as it is up to staff how they commute to and from work," Mr McDonald said.

"That said, some employers may choose to cover any extra costs incurred by employees."

He said: "It is also worth bearing in mind that those employees who can work from home – and presumably have done to a large extent over the past 18 months – will probably expect to be allowed to do so, at least in the short-term, if the alternative is a more difficult or expensive commute."

Mr McDonald advises: "Employers should consider taking a pragmatic approach in this regard to ensure harmonious employee relations."