Parents’ rights to time off work during upcoming teacher strikes in July

It is likely that with the upcoming teacher strikes in July some employees will either be asking to take annual leave, unpaid parental leave or family and dependant leave (which is either paid or unpaid depending on the company’s policy). This doesn’t tend to cause companies too much trouble on a day to day basis; however, at a time where there may be a lot of employees all asking for time off at the same time (due to the strikes), this could have an impact on the company and its ability to function.

Can a company refuse an application for annual leave, unpaid parental leave or dependant leave?

Depending on what is written in the company’s annual leave and family and dependant’s leave policies, it may be able to refuse the request. In relation to annual leave, most policies tend to set out that this must be applied for at least 2 weeks in advance and can be refused if the company is unable to accommodate the request.

In respect of family and dependant leave, a company must not unreasonably refuse a request. However, this type of leave can only be applied for if the employee was not aware of the situation beforehand. It is possible that some schools will notify parents in advance of being closed, whilst others will only tell them on the morning of the strikes. Should the employee not apply for this type of leave it is likely that they will seek to have unpaid parental leave.

What should companies do now?

Given that the teachers strikes in early July are looking increasingly likely, we would advise on speaking to employees in advance of the proposed strike dates in order to minimise disruption on the workforce. This way companies can find out how many employees may be absent arrange cover if possible and manage employees’ expectations, in case they need to make other childcare arrangements. We understand that companies will want to be as accommodating as possible in these situations but due to the companies’ resources and/or the impact of the absences on the workforce it is not always possible.

Darren Tibble, Partner

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