Businesses are bracing as teachers across England and Wales vote to take industrial action over pay. This follows on from a similar vote in Scotland, that saw almost all primary and secondary schools close for a series of strikes beginning on 16 January.
All 23,400 schools in England and Wales will be affected with national strikes scheduled for 1 February, 15 and 16 March. Regional strikes will also happen on four other dates.
Jenny Marsden, Director of Service at HR tech firm BrightHR, says: “This industrial action is likely to cause major disruption to working parents as well as their employers, should they be unable to source alternative childcare arrangements on these dates.
“Employers should start conversations with their staff now to see what arrangements will need to be made. If no alternative childcare is available then employers should consider flexible working arrangements, such as working from home.
“Disruption to normal childcare routines does not necessarily mean that a parent cannot work. As we saw during the pandemic, working from home can be a viable option for many, and not having to take time off means there is no impact on pay.
“However, working from home is not possible for many jobs and depending on the ages and care needs of an employee’s child(ren), it’s not always a viable option. If this is the case, then employers can look at encouraging staff to take annual leave, time off in lieu (TOIL) or unpaid leave.
“The right to time off for dependants usually only covers emergency situations so might not apply here. Any strike action requires advance notice, which means working parents have time to prepare alternative childcare arrangements.
“If an employee has worked at the company for at a least a year, they could be eligible to take parental leave. However, this requires giving the employer 21 days’ notice and needs to be taken in blocks of at least one week, unless the child is disabled. It is also unpaid, so may not be the most efficient option.
“It’s important for all parties to start planning now in order to minimise disruption on the days when strike action is taking place.”