Parents’ rights during school strikes

As school strikes are set to continue in the North West of England, thousands of parents have been left concerned about where they stand in terms of working arrangements and their entitlements. Unions have warned that strike action may last until the summer so if you are a parent looking to take time off work to look after your children, there are multiple different options available to you under employment law.

What to do if you need to take time off due to the strikes

The best first step is to speak to your employer as soon as possible to alert them that the strike action is affecting or going to be affecting your child. Let them know as early as you can when you need the time off or to work from home, and when you are expecting to be back in work. It would be helpful to request this in writing and to get a reply in writing so that you have a record of this.

Be as clear and specific as possible in what you are requesting. Whether this is a work from home request, a flexible working week request, or a paid or unpaid leave request, this should be specified in communications made to your employer.

Paid options

It is vital that employees check their contract of employment to find out whether their place of work has a paid leave policy that covers those responsible for the care of ‘dependents’. This will aid in finding out what they are entitled to during the strike action, and whether this includes paid leave.

Furthermore, there is the option of taking paid holiday to look after children during school strikes. There is also the option of speaking to your employer with regards to work from home arrangements, even if this is something outside of your usual working arrangements. Employers are being encouraged to be flexible and to accommodate for the school strikes, therefore flexible working arrangements should be facilitated and parents who can work from home should be encouraged to at this time without the risk of losing pay.

Unpaid Options

Unpaid leave options for those who have children are common in many workplaces. Parents are free to take dependent leave. This means parents can take time off if ‘care arrangements for a dependent suddenly break down’ or ‘an unexpected incident involving your child at their school’ occurs, with strikes falling under this category.

It is important to note that all employees with ‘dependent’ responsibilities are entitled to this type of unpaid leave, irrespective of their length of service. This is because the time off is necessary under law ‘because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant’.

Employees also have the right to take unpaid parental leave but must give their employer 21 days’ notice of their intention to take this leave. This is not always possible due to short notice in confirming strike dates but is an option where possible. This type of unpaid leave is only available to employees with at least one years’ service.

Eligible parents are entitled to 18 weeks’ leave for each child up to their 18th birthday. Up to 4 weeks of unpaid parental leave per child can be taken each year. For those affected, this would be ideal to be used during school strikes.

Blog Author:
Eleanor-Mary Silk

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