The National Education Union have declared strike action to take place on the following dates;
- Wednesday 1st February
- Wednesday 1st March
- Wednesday 15th March
- Thursday 16th March
There may be some uncertainty as to which schools will be closed as it is unclear which schools will have a high enough level of teachers taking action to require them to close. Each individual school will make that decision and decide what arrangements will be made. Some schools may close completely. Many schools will close completely, some will have a reduced teaching capacity, for other schools it will very much be business as usual.
What may cause potentially more issues in terms of planning for parents and employers is that some schools may not know whether or not they will be closed until the day of the planned strike. We would urge all employers to encourage their employees to check with the school, as well as monitoring updates from the relevant local authority and the local and national press.
As an employer what should you do if your employees need to take time off as a consequence of the strikes to look after their children?
Remember that the employees affected may include not only parents but grandparents or anyone else who has childcare responsibilities.
If your employee is unable to find alternative childcare arrangements there are a couple of options;
WORK FROM HOME OR FLEXIBLE WORKING.
You should consider whether or not employees can temporarily change their working hours or work from home. Also think about whether they can change their shift time or day.
You may agree with an employee to take the day out of their normal holiday entitlement at short notice. Be mindful not just to give an extra days paid leave to those that are affected as this clearly benefits them if those not affected do not get an additional day too.
TIME OFF TO CARE FOR DEPENDANTS.
Although this may not be helpful during the current cost of living crisis, this is an option. Time off to care for dependents rights is usually used for emergencies such as sickness, however it could be used in these circumstances, particularly if the employee genuinely has no other alternative. The employee will need to provide the employer with the reason for the absence and likely duration as soon as possible. You should check your Time off to Care for Dependents policy and circulate it to those that may be affected.
To avoid employees taking unauthorised absence ensure that you make them aware of the options above. Employers should think hard before refusing reasonable requests for any of the options outlined above. An employer can take disciplinary action against an employee who takes unauthorised absence without good cause, however this should be unnecessary if an employer sets out the options clearly regarding time off for the teachers strikes. Should you be faced with an incidence of unauthorised absence give your allocated HR an email or give them a call for further discussion and options.