Schools closed and services run by the Government and councils were hit during today’s first day of action by public sector trade unionists.
And the strike gave many private sector bosses a major headache as staff took time off to look after children who were given a day off school.
Now Sarah Pugh, a partner in Midlands employment law firm W.H. Law, is advising companies who may be affected by staff who need to stay at home to plan ahead.
“Thousands of Midlands workers will have been affected by the day of action and many may have no child care alternative available, meaning they must stay at home.” said Sarah of Dudley based W.H. Law.
“It seems likely that further union protests will follow and businesses will suffer unless they take steps to cater for the inevitable staff absences which will result. I am advising clients that they should have policies in place to cope with workers who say they have no alternative but to take time off.”
Sarah said that employers could offer either holiday entitlement or flexible working arrangements as a way to cope with employees who are absent due to teachers’ strikes.
“Technically an employee should give at least two days notice before taking one day’s holiday, and in most cases there is advance notice of strikes, allowing for this notice to be given.
“If an employee has no holiday entitlement or fails to apply for holiday in time, they may ask for unpaid time off at short notice. It is entirely at the discretion of the employer if they grant this request, unless there is an urgent problem with childcare. Employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving their dependants but this only applies when, for example, care arrangements fail at the last moment.
“A further possibility would be to allow employees to use flexible working. Employees should be given the option by the employer to either work from home (where this is practicable), offer flexitime or shift swapping.
” Where an employee simply take the day off without permission, employers are within their rights to take disciplinary action in relation to that employee, especially if there are procedures in place to cater for planned absences.”
Sarah added: “Businesses which prepare for the worst and make their employees aware of the options available, by means of internal policies and procedures, are less likely to be caught short when the strikes hit and should be able to survive the expected summer of discontent.”
For further advice on all aspects of employment law contact Sarah Pugh at W.H. Law on 01384 216920.
Notes to Editors:
W.H. Law specialises in Workplace and Health and Safety law, providing a holistic service to businesses, focusing primarily on the assessment and management of the risks involved in employing people within a business and providing assistance with litigation where necessary.
A training service is available for managers and personnel officers.
Further information can be found on-line at: http://www.whlawllp.co.uk/index.htm