ARE THE SCHOOL STRIKES HAVING AN AFFECT ON YOUR EMPLOYEES’ ABILITY TO WORK?
Teachers within the National Education Union (NEU) are being encouraged to take industrial strike action across England and Wales on selected dates in February and March 2023.
Schools have been advising parents to make contingency plans for their children’s supervision on selected strike dates, since final decisions may only allow for very short notice since Headteachers are not allowed to ask teachers if they are taking strike action.
When are the strikes taking place?
- 1 February: All schools in England and Wales
- 14 February: All schools in Wales
- 28 February: North and north-west England, Yorkshire and Humber
- 1 March: East Midlands, West Midlands, and the NEU’s eastern region
- 2 March: South-east and south-west England, and London
- 15 and 16 March: All schools in England and Wales
What does this mean if employees are requesting time off work at short notice? How can employers plan for school strike action?
Employees do have statutory rights to parental time off, which may be utilised where applicable;
- Parental leave – this is unpaid and only applies when employees have a year or more of service, with children under 18. However, under the general rules of parental leave, an employee is expected to give at least 21 days’ notice, and schools have advised final decisions may only be made at short notice. Additionally, parental leave should be taken in blocks of one week or more (unless the child is disabled, in which case it can be taken as one day), which means that it may not be suitable, depending on the Company’s policy.
- Time off for dependents – this is again unpaid, and should be used by employees for dealing with an unforeseen emergency affecting a dependent, so for example, arranging emergency childcare. This may be used in cases where there is very short notice for disruptions, such as a child being poorly or injured or someone else being unwell who the child is dependent on for their care.
In the cases of strikes, although advance notice has been given of the likelihood of the impacted dates, to allow for arrangements to be made, time off for dependents is still a possible option within the workplace.
If there are workers within the Company, they are not protected by the same rights as employees under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Therefore, their arrangements would be down to the discretion and flexibility of the employer.
Do employees have to be given the day off?
Employers should act reasonably to support employees to plan for the dates impacted by industrial strike action, however there is no legal right for employees to have a day off.
Employees and employers are encouraged to have an open discussion about the options available to them, with as much notice as possible, considering their role in the business, the team around them and the more suitable course of action. Considerations should be made around the following;
- Does the employee have enough annual leave remaining for days off to be authorised?
- Can the employee take the days as unpaid leave?
- Does the role allow for temporary adjustments such as the employee working from home, amending their working hours/shift pattern, or swapping their working days?
Employers are encouraged to consider their communications and policies relating to absence and the above considerations, to maintain good workplace relations and ensure that employees are not regarded as having unauthorised absences.
If you would like further guidance on how to manage employees needing time off to care for dependants for industrial strike action or any other HR topic, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Clover HR on 0330 175 6601 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org