With more teachers’ strikes in the UK planned for March (national strikes are planned for 15 March and 16 March, in addition to various regional strikes), with over 23,000 schools affected across England and Wales, we take a look at how businesses can manage the impact of these strikes both on the organisation and their employees.

As we have seen in recent times, with Covid-19 lockdowns, “snow days”, and travel disruption due to rail strikes, employers need to adopt a flexible approach to managing absence, and in many ways, this is no different. Having an effective business continuity plan is vital to help protect your business from disruption on the days when strike action is taking place.

While in some cases it can be difficult to prepare for the teacher’s strikes, as unions members are not obliged to inform the school that they are going on strike, as a starting point, employers should be communicating with their staff to understand who will be affected by strike action and agreeing arrangements in advance.

Put simply, it is an employee’s responsibility to arrange their childcare, however, disruption to normal childcare arrangements doesn’t necessarily mean the employee cannot work. Whilst employers are not required to pay their employees if they cannot work due to teacher strikes, there are some (paid and unpaid) options employers may want to consider to minimise the impact on their business and at the same time support their staff who are affected by strike action.

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Teachers Strike – some solutions to consider

Working from Home
The hybrid working model has changed how organisations operate since the Covid-19 lockdowns, allowing more flexible working arrangements. For staff that can effectively complete their jobs from home and wish to continue working, employers may consider working from home as an option. Considerations could be given to their working hours on the days affected by the strikes, for example, allowing the employee to work early morning/late evening to help juggle the demands of their job and childcare. Although, recognising that this may not be possible for all.

Paid Annual Leave
For staff that cannot find alternative childcare arrangements but wish to continue getting paid, the employee could use their annual leave entitlement. In these circumstances, employers may need to be flexible in their holiday booking procedure and consider shortening their usual notice requirements. All annual leave requests (whether they are due to childcare issues or other reasons) should be considered fairly, and employers should act consistently to avoid complaints of unfair treatment or discrimination.

Time off in Lieu
If an employee has accrued TOIL (time off in lieu), the employee may wish to agree with their employer to use this time to take off during the Teacher’s strikes. TOIL is an option for taking time off instead of being paid extra for working additional hours. The employee should check their organisation’s TOIL policy for details, as there is no legal requirement for employers to offer time off in lieu.

Time off for Dependents
Employees are entitled to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency for their dependents, for example, when a child’s school unexpectedly closes. Although sufficient notice should be given to parents on whether teachers are striking at their child’s school, and therefore it may not be classed as an unexpected emergency, this type of leave can still be relied upon for childcare purposes.

The statutory entitlement to time off for dependants’ leave is usually unpaid unless the employment contract or organisation’s policy specifies otherwise and is intended to be a short-term solution to make childcare arrangements. Employees have the right not to suffer any detriment for exercising their right to take emergency time off for dependants.

Unpaid Leave
With the employer’s agreement, employees may be able to take unpaid leave, should they be unable to work during the Teacher’s strike.

If you need any advice or guidance on this subject or any other people-related topic, please call us today, and a member of our experienced team would be happy to help.