During February and March teacher strikes will be taking place throughout England and Wales causing childcare issues for working parents everywhere. But how do you manage this as an employer?
Employees with a year or more of continuous service with children under the age of 18 are entitled to take parental leave, although it's not always practical.
Employees are required to give 21 days notice of a request to take parental leave. However strikes can be arranged with only 14 days notice so it makes the practicalities of this leave difficult.
Parental leave must be taken in blocks of one week and is unpaid so there may be resistance from the employee to use this type of leave.
Time off for Dependants
Time off for dependants can be used to deal with an unforeseen emergency affecting a dependant such as childcare falling through. There is case law that allows for this type of leave to be used for planned issues where it has been impossible to arrange childcare, such as strikes and school closures.
Time off for dependants is unpaid.
Are employees entitled to time off?
With the exception of the above, there is no legal right to a day off work to care for a child when a school closes due to strikes. It should be a case of having a conversation with your staff to plan for minimal disruption to the business. Some other options available are:
Authorised unpaid leave
Swapping working days
Working from home
Adjusting working hours
As with teacher strikes, the key to minimising disruption to your business is planning. Understand which of your staff rely on public transport to get to work and explore the above, non-statutory options such as annual leave or working from home.
You should also be aware that strikes on public transport inevitably affect traffic levels so encourage staff to allow extra time for their journey and make reasonable allowances for timekeeping issues around this time.