Scotland school strikes: What if I can’t make it into work?

Scottish schools are on strike on Wed 7 and Thurs 8 Dec

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SUSIE Lockhart, Senior Employment Law Solicitor at WorkNest, has offered some expert legal comment for both workers and businesses on where both parties stand today and tomorrow, if workers can’t make it in due to their children being off school because of strikes.

She said: “These strikes are causing significant disruption those who rely on having children in school to attend work. It also poses a real headache for businesses who might have to manage without a substantial part of their workforce if employees can’t make alternative childcare arrangements. 

“If an employee is unable to attend work due to a lack of childcare and the workplace is open, there is no right for the employee to be paid for that day unless it is possible to agree with their employer that they carry the work out from home. 

“All employees do however have a statutory right to take unpaid time off from work in certain situations to look after their dependents, irrespective of their length of service. One of the situations covered by the law is where the time off is necessary ‘because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant’.

Although parents have been pre-warned about the strikes, employers would be advised to allow employees to take time off as case law has determined that the word “unexpected” does not necessarily involve a time element. This means that, even when an employee knows in advance of the disruption to their childcare, providing they make genuine efforts to make alternative arrangements, they should still be entitled to take time off. Employers therefore should be very wary of taking disciplinary action against someone in these circumstances for their failure to attend work.

“Given that such time off is unpaid, some employees may not wish or be able to afford to take unpaid leave.  As we’ve seen during the pandemic, employers and employees are able to come up with alternative solutions. This included allowing work to be carried out from home where possible or temporarily varying an employee’s hours of work so that they carry out their tasks at different times during the day to accommodate their lack of childcare. If solutions like that don’t work due to the employee’s role, there is the fallback option of utilising some paid annual leave to cover the days affected by the strike action. While an employee usually is required to give twice as much notice as the period of leave they’re asking to take, an employer is free to agree to annual leave requests at shorter notice.”

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