Headaches for staff and employers as more strikes impact workplace

Pam Loch, of Loch Associates

INDUSTRIAL action could continue to disrupt more than just business operations – staff relations could also end up strained if expectations about time off work are unclear.

Upcoming industrial action is expected from teachers in the NEU union on March 15-16, and by RMT workers on Southeastern Railway on March 16, 18 and 30 March and April 1.

Yet working parents cannot rely on emergency dependents’ leave to cover them with their employers, employment expert Pam Loch, of Loch Associates, has warned.

“The key is in the word ‘emergency’, because if you know that the teachers are going to be striking, you’ve had enough notice to be organised and arrange to have someone else look after the children,” she said.

“If you’ve already taken the necessary steps to arrange a childminder, but the person you’ve contacted falls unwell the day before, then obviously you would be able to request emergency dependents’ leave in this case,” she added.

However, she cautioned: “It’s emergency time off, so it will usually be unpaid.”

“Misuse of unplanned absence can break the bond of trust,” she warned.

“Employees should only rely on emergency dependents’ leave in genuine cases, as misuse of leave arrangements can damage the duty of trust and confidence between the employee and the employer.”

Staff unable to find childcare would also be expected to take unpaid time off or use holiday if they are unable to come to work.

Yet working from home, with or without children present, also can raise problems for employers, from the health and safety implications of working while looking after children to the potential for discrimination.

Ms Loch said: “If an employee can work from home and does not have children, employers must decide how they approach this as they need to be consistent in their approach and not unlawfully discriminate.”

Any strike which results in staff being unable to get to work must be handled carefully by employers, said Ms Loch, who has been an employment lawyer for 23 years.

Although unauthorised time off can lead to disciplinary action, if someone approaches their manager explaining that childcare arrangements had fallen through at the last minute, ‘it would be difficult not to agree to them having time off’ the lawyer acknowledged.

“An employer also has to consider if the employee could bring an employment tribunal claim for sex discrimination if they discipline the employee.”

There are other solutions for transport-strike disruption, but they do require forethought and initiative, added Ms Loch, suggesting employers consider car sharing or arranging transport.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter