Jackie Le Poidevin, Editor-in-Chief, HR Adviser


5 Options to Deal with an Employee Who is Stranded Abroad

This week’s flight disruptions have raised the question of what to do when an employee is, through no fault of their own, late returning from a holiday. Although the head of NATS, the UK’s air traffic control provider, has said the glitch which caused thousands of flight cancellations and delays won’t happen again, a range of issues can lead to employees becoming stuck overseas. These include transport strikes, airlines or travel companies collapsing, having to look after a sick or injured family member, or an emergency at the airport or in the destination country. These are 5 options to consider if an employee is marooned abroad, plus a few dos and don’ts to bear in mind.

Option 1. Treat the Time as Unpaid Leave

You’re under no obligation to pay an employee who can’t make it into work, even if this is something they have no control over. You’re therefore entitled to withhold pay for the duration of the absence. However, to maintain good working relations, there are some alternative solutions you can explore.

Option 2. Let the Employee Work Remotely

Some employees may be able to work remotely if they have a laptop with them or access to a computer (e.g. at their hotel or a co-working space). However, you should consider whether they have a suitable space to work without distractions and whether the connection and device pose a data security risk.

Option 3. Suggest the Employee Takes the Time as Annual Leave

If the employee has any annual leave remaining, you might offer to treat the absence as extra paid holiday. However, unless they’re going to be stranded for a while, you can’t force them to take the time out of their holiday pot because you have to give them notice to take annual leave at a particular time.

Option 4. Treat the Absence as Time Off in Lieu

You may owe the employee some extra time off if they’ve been putting in unpaid overtime. Alternatively, you might agree to pay them during their absence as long as they make the time up on their return. In this case, you must remain compliant with the rules on rest breaks and working hours.

Option 5. Agree on Shift Swaps

The employee may be able to make up lost time and avoid being left out of pocket by working additional shifts on their return (again, subject to working time laws).

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do pay an employee who’s stranded abroad on a business trip. If you’ve sent the person to that destination, you should continue to pay them, even if they can’t do any work. You’ll also need to keep paying their living expenses.
  • Don’t launch your disciplinary procedure. Technically, an employee who doesn’t come into work when they’re meant to is absent without leave. When the absence isn’t their fault, though, it’s advisable to be lenient. However, if there’s a delay in them reporting the absence, you could ask why this was and remind them of your procedure if necessary. If you have a reason to suspect they’re not really marooned, you might ask to see their flight booking.
  • Don’t pressure the employee to take risks. Employees shouldn’t, for example, feel they have to rent a car and drive through the night to the ferry terminal to avoid missing any more time off work. This could put their and their family’s safety in danger.


Emma Lampka, Editorial Board Member, Health & Safety Adviser and Risk Assessment & Compliance


Working Minds: New HSE Stress Campaign to Help HGV Drivers

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that stress, anxiety and depression are the number one reason for work-related illness in the UK and is on the rise. A report by Deloitte estimates a total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019 and stress costs UK employers up to £56 billion a year. The HSE, the charity Mates in Mind and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) have therefore collaborated on the Working Minds campaign which we outline below. We also offer 6 steps you can take to reduce your drivers’ stress.

HGV drivers keep the country and our economy moving but more needs to be done, according to the HSE, to protect Britain’s truckers from work-related stress. In the transportation and storage sector, around four in 10 cases of work related ill-health are due to stress, depression or anxiety. This is caused by working long hours away from home, demanding delivery times and limited access to toilets and showers for drivers.

The new working minds campaign includes access to a 24/7 support line called ‘BeAMate’. Your drivers can text ‘BeAMate’ to 85258 and trained volunteers can help with issues including anxiety, stress, loneliness or depression.

What You Can Do About it

To support your team members and colleagues, you can implement some key preventative steps within your organisation. Employers have a legal duty to ensure the risks of stress and mental ill health are factored into risk assessments at an organisational level to help prevent issues from developing into mental ill health.

Follow these 6 Steps

  1. Complete a risk assessment of potential stressors for your road transport colleagues. This will help you identify things that may cause excess pressure, anxiety or depression such as demanding deadlines and long hours away from home.
  2. Implement risk control measures to help mitigate the risks to your team members. These could be as simple as having a stress buddy system, where team mates can contact each other to discuss their concerns, to looking at improving working arrangements and demands.
  • Use the 5 Rs to help structure conversations and enable people to feel comfortable to talk about any issues. They also help your managers recognise any signs of stress within their teams:
    • Reach out: start a conversation – this is the first step towards preventing work-related stress and supporting good mental health
    • Recognise the signs of stress in individuals and teams. There are six main areas that may cause issues if not managed well: demands placed upon workers, workers feeling they have control over their work, support for workers in the workplace, building healthy relationships in the workplace, ensuring that the role is appropriate and fits the person and how change is managed.
    • Respond: action points and solutions should be agreed together between employers and workers.
    • Reflect: monitor and review the action you have taken, or have not taken in some cases.
    • Make it routine: ask how people are and check-in on mental health and stress. Together, we can make talking about how people are feeling, normal.
  1. Put together some campaign champions to drive and promote the Working Minds campaign within your organisation by putting up posters and sharing information.
  2. Provide training for your managers to enable them to recognise the symptoms of stress and help them to respond to the individual’s needs.
  3. Provide workers with resources such as personalised mental health action plans or self-help guidance such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques that can help individuals deal with their worries, help solve their problems and boost their mental wellbeing.


Sarah Bradford, Editor-in-Chief, Pay & Benefits Adviser

Tax Relief on Employee Contributions to Registered Pension Schemes

Employees are entitled to tax relief on contributions that they make to a registered pension scheme. Where their pension contributions are deducted from their pay, the relief may be given in one of two ways; either under a relief at source arrangement or under a net pay arrangement. The names given to the methods are counterintuitive and HMRC have found that employers often make mistakes as a result. In the August 2023 issue of their Employer Bulletin publication, they have provided clarification on how the relief is given in each case and what you need to do to correct any mistakes.

It should be noted that the method of relief is set for the pension scheme at the outset and cannot be changed. Employees have no choice over the method used.

Relief at Source

Relief at source is the default method for new registered pension schemes.

Under a relief at source scheme, you will deduct the employee’s pension contribution from their net pay. The contribution is treated as being made net of the basic rate of tax, which is currently 20%. The pension scheme provider claims the equivalent of the basic rate of tax from HMRC Pension Schemes Services (PSS). The individual’s pension pot is topped up by the amount claimed from PSS.

However, if the employee pays tax at the higher or the additional rate, they will need to claim back the difference between the rate at which they pay tax and the basic rate in their Self Assessment tax return to ensure that they receive relief at their marginal rate of tax.

Contrary to what the name suggests, higher and additional rate taxpayers do not receive full ‘relief at source’. A gross contribution of £100 will cost a higher rate taxpayer £60. You will deduct £80 from their net pay. The pension scheme provider will claim £20 from HMRC, increasing the pension contribution to £100. The employee will claim a further £20 (the difference between 40% of £100 and 20% of £100) in tax relief through their tax return, reducing the net cost of their contribution from £80 to £60.

Net Pay Arrangement

Net pay arrangements are less common. You can elect to use this method at the start of a new scheme but if a scheme is set up as a relief at source scheme, you cannot switch to a net pay scheme.

Again, contrary to what the name suggests, under a net pay scheme, contributions are deducted from the employee’s gross pay for PAYE purposes (but not for NIC), so the employee effectively receives ‘relief at source’ at their marginal rate of tax. Higher and additional rate taxpayers do not need to claim relief through their Self Assessment tax return.

Common Mistakes

HMRC have found that some employers have set a relief at source scheme as a net pay scheme in their payroll and reported it to HMRC as a net pay scheme. As the scheme has been treated as a net pay scheme in the payroll, employees have received tax relief at their marginal rate of tax.

However, as the scheme is a relief at source scheme, the pension provider has treated the contributions as having been made net of the basic rate of tax and claimed the equivalent of this from PSS. Consequently, too much relief has been given (and the employee has paid too little tax). In this situation, it is the employer who is liable for tax under-deducted from the employees’ pay as a result. If an error of this nature is discovered, it should be corrected immediately through RTI. You can use HMRC’s digital disclosure facility to report errors for earlier periods.

Errors may also be made where salary sacrifice arrangements for pension contributions are in place. Where this is the case, you should check that employer contributions have not been inadvertently treated as employee contributions.

You must provide your pension scheme provider with a report of employee and employer contributions to the scheme. If the report is incorrect, it is your responsibility to tell your pension provider. The pension provider must contact PSS if they have over-claimed tax for relief at source members.