Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Strike action is bad news all round

Teachers’ strikes are making life difficult for parents – and they’re just as problematic for employers too.

Tina Chander, from the employment team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with more possible strikes in the coming weeks, families and companies across the area would need to be prepared.

“There is often little advance warning that strike action will be taking place, and this is a nightmare for parents who suddenly find they need to arrange emergency childcare. And of course, if there is no alternative, they may well be forced to take the day off from work which in turn causes issues for their employer.”

But Tina warned that employers needed to try to be as flexible as possible in order to help parents handle a difficult situation.

“By law, staff are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with family situations like this, and employers must take a sensible approach, even though it causes disruption in the workplace. If you don’t allow an employee to take time off to care for their child in these circumstances, you could well be breaching their rights so it’s important to handle the request sensitively.”

Tina said companies needed to have a consistent approach when it came to dealing with employees needing to take time off to care for their children.

“Your staff have no automatic legal right to be paid if they can’t get into work, but check your contracts carefully as they may say differently. And if you’ve previously paid staff in similar circumstances, you may have already set a precedent which you now can’t ignore.”

Several options are possible if staff are unable to come into work, and as long as an employer is even-handed and applies the same rules across the board, then the system will be seen to be fair.

“Ask your staff to take paid annual leave if they have any left available, or suggest they work from home,” said Tina. “Employees could also take the time off as unpaid leave if they have no alternative, or agree to make up the time lost by starting earlier, working later or taking shorter lunch breaks once they’re back at work.

“Strike action is never an easy situation to handle, but by remembering that both parents and employers are affected, and by taking a flexible approach, everything should balance out in the end.”