The National Education Union (NEU) has confirmed that more than 100,000 teachers are planning to take industrial action, with over 23,000 schools expected to be affected in England, Wales and Scotland.  

The planned strike dates are:

01 February – all schools in England and Wales

14 February – all schools in Wales

28 February – North and north-west England, Yorkshire and Humber

1 March – East Midlands, West Midlands and the NEU’s Eastern Region

2 March – South-east and south-west England and London

15 and 16 March – All schools in England and Wales

Government guidance says schools should stay open if possible but individual schools will be impacted for a maximum of 4 days.

There is clearly the potential for disruption to employers as parents may find themselves with no form of childcare in the case of the closure of their child’s school. With advance notice of the potential strikes dates employers can plan ahead to support employees and minimise the impact of school closures.

What are the options for employees?

Parental leave

Employees with service of one year or more have the right to parental leave in respect of children under the age of 18. However it may not be practical to rely on this type of leave to cover strike action as the statutory rules require that:

  • 21 days of notice must be given
  • leave is taken in blocks of one week or more (unless the child is disabled in which case it can be taken in single days)
  • parental leave is unpaid

Time off for dependants

In emergency situations involving a dependant, parents may be able to rely on ‘time off for dependants’. Usually this type of leave is used to deal with emergency and unforeseen circumstances, for instance the illness of a child or problems with childcare. In recent times the EAT has confirmed that the leave can be used to deal with an event that was known about in advance, where it has been impossible to make alternative care arrangements.

This type of leave is also unpaid.

Annual Leave

Some parents may choose to request paid annual leave. Employees may choose to book paid annual leave in accordance with the employers usual policy to ensure the time off is approved and paid.

Authorised Unpaid Leave

In the event that the employee has no annual leave entitlement available or they would prefer not to use their entitlement for this purpose, they may seek approval to take authorised unpaid leave to cover the absence.

 Other alternatives

Outside of the options above, an employee has no legal right to a day off to look after their child in the event of a schools closure due to strike action, but it is expected that employers should make all reasonable efforts to help accommodate this type of absence. It may be possible to consider alternatives such as:

  • Working from home
  • Swapping working days
  • Adjusting working hours to make up any hours lost
  • Assistance with alternative childcare arrangements