Transport and Teachers Strikes
Parents told to prepare for Teachers Strikes
Transport and Teachers Strikes. The start of 2023 has seen a further wave of industrial action, with both transport and teaching unions announcing strikes which may affect your workforce’s ability to carry out their jobs as usual.
After an overwhelming vote for strike action by teachers, schools in England and Wales will close for seven days in February and March meaning working parents will have to arrange alternative childcare.
The vote, held on 16 January by the National Education Union (NEU), will affect individual schools for four days each in the initial action, with dates determined by region.
The majority of schools are likely to be affected with them being either closed, or partially closed, when teachers walk out on strike. While not all school staff will be off work, there are unlikely to be sufficient staff numbers to guarantee the safety of children and therefore where a school is open it may have to restrict attendance. It is unclear how much notice parents will be given if their child cannot attend school on a strike day.
The teachers strikes are scheduled to take place on:
- Wednesday 1 February (England and Wales),
- Tuesday 14 February (Wales),
- Tuesday 28 February (Northern, North West, and Humber regions),
- Wednesday 1 March (East Midlands, Western, Eastern regions)
- Thursday 2 March (London, South East, South West regions)
- Wednesday 15 March (England and Wales)
- Thursday 16 March (England and Wales)
My advice is to be proactive rather than reactive and open dialogue now with staff on how you can support them through the transport and teachers strikes. Employees that feel supported during their time of need will be more likely to reciprocate through periods of uncertainty arising from the cost of living crisis.
Much of the practical (as opposed to legal) answer to what help the employee needs will depend on their individual circumstances, including:
- Is the child old enough to be left unsupervised and, if so, for how long?
- Does the child have any physical or social special needs?
- Is there anyone else who can share the care of the child eg parent, step-parent, partner, or a member of the extended household?
Answers to these questions will greatly assist you and your employee in discussing the practicalities and agreeing a plan of action.
Train drivers have announced that they will strike again on 1 and 3 February. Some bus services will also be impacted by strikes.
Transport and Teachers Strikes Options For Employers
Flexibility over ways of working and managing absence have become the norm for most of us, for example during the Covid-19 lockdowns, the recent cold spell and travel disruption caused by ongoing strikes. Now is therefore a good time to take stock, assess how effective your previous approaches have been and think about your strategy moving forward.
Staff Who Can Work Effectively From Home
If it is possible for staff to carry out their jobs from home, you may decide that this is the most practical approach during strike days for employees who are otherwise unable to work as normal. You may have already introduced a home and hybrid working policy which could apply in these circumstances.
If an employee has young children at home due to school closures, it may be difficult for them to work from home effectively. In this case they may need temporary flexibility to carry out their work, or a day off work.
If the employee is able to work from home, then the best way forward is for employee and line manager to have an informal chat about the practicality of the employee working from home, while simultaneously having to provide childcare.
It may be possible to agree on some degree of temporary flexible working. For example, allowing an extended working day, or for some work to be done in the early mornings, evenings and/or at weekends. Consideration could be given to whether the employee can be reassigned to alternative duties, which can be performed remotely.
To ease the pressure, by allowing the employee to work fewer hours, it may also be possible to use some annual leave to top up the unworked hours.
Staff Who Cann’t Work Effectively From Home
If it is not possible for staff to fully carry out their roles from home you may choose to agree temporary changes that will apply for the duration of any strikes. You could, for example, allow staggered start and finish times or reduced hours to enable employees to drop off and collect their children from alternative care providers. If they will be working reduced hours, rather than reducing their pay consider paying them as normal and allow them to make the time up when they can over the next few weeks.
Staff Who Cann’t Get To The Workplace and Cann’t Work From Home
If staff cannot work on a strike day, there are various forms of possible leave to consider.
Unpaid Dependent Care Leave
This ‘day one’ right is designed to help employees to take unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen events regarding their dependents (including their children). An employee can take unpaid time off to take whatever action is necessary because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of their child (which includes school closures). In usual times, the amount of unpaid dependent care leave that an employee can take is no more than a few days, usually to deal with the immediate problem and put alternative care arrangements in place. However, as we have notice of the school closures this is not an unexpected disruption.
Unpaid Parental Leave
Parents of a child under 18, who are employees with one year’s service, can take up to four weeks’ unpaid parental leave per year (up to a maximum of 18 weeks in total). The leave should be taken in full weeks and the employee should provide 21 days’ notice. But you could grant a week’s leave and then allow the employee to take the time in individual days, you could also waive the notice requirement.
The employee could take some annual holiday to cover times when alternative childcare is not available. You could allow an employee to deduct a single block of time from their annual entitlement and then allow them to break that down in to hours so they can work a shorter day and use and hour of holiday at the start and/or/ end of the day.
Time Off In Lieu
It may be possible for you to pay the employee as normal whilst recording the amount of time they have missed and allow them to make up the time at later by working unpaid overtime.
Authorised Unpaid Leave
If none of the above suggestions are suitable for you and your employee’s situation you could approve a day or series of days that are unpaid leave.
Confirming Your Approach
We recommend that you make clear to staff that you expect them to work as normal wherever possible and the steps they should take if they are unable to do so. Where it is not possible for staff to work as normal, you and your managers will need to be ready to discuss with staff the options available, implications for pay and any notice requirements. Handling these types of situations carefully will reduce the risk of potential employee claims, whether for detrimental treatment, unfair dismissal, discrimination and/or breach of trust and confidence.
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