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Rail strikes: Your rights if you can't get into work as millions of journeys disrupted

With the country facing three days of train strike action due to a dispute over pay and conditions, employment experts explain what happens if you can’t make it into work

The country is grappling with three days of industrial action

Millions of Brits face travel chaos today due to a massive train strike that is the biggest in a generation – but if you can’t get to work, does your employer still have to pay you?

Around 50,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators are walking out after last-ditch talks failed to resolve a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Strike action will affect trains today, Thursday and Saturday.

London Underground workers will also walk out today.

But if the strikes mean you cannot get to work, your employer does not have to pay you any cash, experts say.

Employment lawyer Laura Kearsley, of law firm Nelsons, explained what workers’ rights are during the industrial action.

If you can’t get into work, don’t be surprised if your boss doesn’t pay you


SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I can’t get to work because of the strikes. Does my employer have to pay me?

Kearsley said: “Put simply, no they do not. It is, generally, an employee’s responsibility to get to and from work and so, if this is not possible, the employer is entitled to regard such absence as unauthorised.

“An exception to this might be where the employer provides transport, for example, a bus service, and this is cancelled.

“Some employers may consider allowing employees to request the time off as annual leave or to work from home during the days the rail strikes are due to take place.”

My workpla ce has closed for the day because of the strike. Does my employer have to pay me?

Kearsley said: “Unless your contract has a provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, your boss will still have to pay you if your workplace is closed because of the strikes; this also cannot be marked down as a holiday.

“If you are on a zero-hours contract or your employer has a contractual right to decline to offer you work at short notice, they may not have to pay you. Also, as there has been advance notice of the industry action, the employer could give prior notice to require employees to take their holiday.”

If I’m on annual leave and my employer shuts my workplace for the day, do I still use up my annual leave?

Kearsley explained: “This depends on your employer’s policy and whether employees are still expected to work while the business is shut.

“You may be able to ‘claim your holiday back’ if everyone else is being given a day off, but if other colleagues are expected to work from home or continue to attend appointments, then it is less likely.”

For more information or to speak to a member of Nelsons’ employment team, please visit

More than half of the trains due to serve Glastonbury music festival have been cancelled due to the strikes.

Tens of thousands of revellers have been forced to find alternative routes to the site in Pilton, Somerset.

Labour has been drawn into the rail strikes row as front benchers have been told to stay away from picket lines.

Party chief Keir Starmer told shadow cabinet members “we must show leadership” adding “frontbenchers, including [parliamentary private secretaries] should not be on picket lines”.

The full memo, seen by Politics Home, said: “We have robust lines. We do not want to see these strikes to go ahead with the resulting disruption to the public. The government have failed to engage in any negotiations.”

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