On the 16th of January the National Education Union (NEU), the UK’s largest education union voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action. 90% of teachers in the UK voted to take strike action, whilst 92% of teachers in Wales voted to strike.
When are the teacher strikes taking place?
National teacher strikes are currently scheduled for 1 February 2023, and the 15th and 16th of March 2023, with regional strikes taking place on other dates throughout February and March. The strikes are set to affect approximately 23,400 schools across England and Wales.
Disruption for parents and employers
The strikes are likely to cause significant disruption to working parents and their respective employers. It’s currently unclear how much notice schools will be able to give if they will be closed on the days of the strike action. Schools may offer distance learning as we saw throughout the pandemic if they are forced to close.
Preparing for disruption
We recommend beginning to prepare for disruption ahead of time and communicate your expectations to your employees.
As seen throughout the pandemic, a lot of employees were able to do their job effectively whilst working from home. You should consider providing greater flexibility to employee’s who are able to do so. If it’s possible for your employees to work from home whilst caring for children who are off school, this can reduce the impact on your business, and resource.
However, for parents with younger children or caring needs, or employees who can’t do their job remotely, working from home is not always possible. You can look to encourage employees to take various forms of leave or allow them to temporarily work flexibly. This could be in the form of re-arranging shifts or working hours.
What leave can employers offer?
Dependants leave (unpaid)
This leave is available for any employee that has a dependent – which can include children that they don’t have parental responsibility for, but live in their house, or reasonably relies on them to make arrangements for the provision of their care. This may not necessarily be suitable however as it usually only covers time off to deal with emergencies or to arrange alternative care. With the advance notice given of the industrial action, strike days may not be considered emergencies, although currently the actual impact is to be seen.
Parental leave (unpaid)
employees are entitled to 18 weeks leave for each of their children, up to the child’s 18thbirthday. Although the statutory scheme usually allows parental leave to only be taken in 1 week blocks, employers may agree with their employees otherwise. This could be a viable option for some strikes – however the drawback is that employees must give 21 days’ notice and have at least 1 year of continuous service. This also does not apply to workers, only employees.
Other unpaid leave
Employers may also be able to come to an agreement with employees to take unpaid leave outside of any statutory scheme.
Paid annual leave
You can require employees to take certain days as annual leave if they give the appropriate notice. From an employee relations perspective, forcing your employees to use their annual leave may cause issues, so it’s best to have an open discussion about this first.
Be Primed & Ready to manage the disruption of teacher strikes
Whichever method you choose to help manage the impact of the strikes, the key take-away is that early consideration and discussion with employees will serve you well. It’s a good idea to also circulate any relevant policies with your team ahead of time.
As the UK is continuing to be affected by industrial action, it’s likely there will be more disruption in the future, and similar situations may have to be navigated.