Over recent months we are aware of a number of dates where teachers who are members of NEU have been or will be on strike.
So what does this mean for day nurseries, pre-schools and out of school clubs? Well they may be impacted in several ways.
1. Staff are unable to attend work as their children’s care arrangements break down.
Whilst your staff will be given advance warning by their child’s Headteacher if the children will be unable to attend school, a week’s notice may insufficient for parents to arrange cover to enable them to attend work as normal. A parent who finds that despite their best efforts, can’t find somewhere to have their children, may be forced to advise their employer they are unable to attend due to time off for dependents. This would be unpaid leave. This could have a knock on effect, with staff out caring for their own children, this could mean you are understaffed and unable to operate safely in ratios. However your parents who are in a position to be off with their school age children may choose to take their nursery age child(ren) out of Nursery and Preschool, which may mean your numbers go down next Tuesday. Legoland anyone?
Staff who use a school based wraparound care to look after their children before and after school may be impacted if clubs decide to close for the day and use lay off clauses with their team. You may have staff advising you that whilst they can arrange care later, they can’t do before 9 or after 3? Alternatively if their registration allows some wraparound care providers may run a holiday club on strike days, assisting working parents to attend work.
2. Your setting may be within a school grounds and you may be prevented from opening as normal.
I would seek to understand what that means, and whether you can continue to have children on site, regardless whether the school is open. That way you are not penalising your parents. If you can’t operate as normal, due to safety or other concerns, can your staff work as normal? Perhaps an impromptu deep clean or a training day, can in some way be a good use of a day. Perhaps you need to use lay off clauses.
3. Staff may ask if they can bring their children into your setting?
This one is increasingly common, when a child isn’t ill but isn’t in school for some reason or another. How you respond to this will depend on your setting and your procedures. What I would say is, will this have an impact on your setting, how would the parents feel who do make alternative arrangements for their child, what about H&S, safeguarding and the children who are registered to attend. Much may depend on the age of the child in question and the view of your insurer.
4. You may be asked to extend your club’s opening hours?
Again, much of whether this is an option will depend on your registration, and whether children can remain with you, during a strike day.
5. Staff may need to go home at lunchtime.
Older school age children that can be left (at a parent’s discretion, we know) for short periods, may need you to be flexible and allow them to leave at lunchtime to feed their children and see how they are getting on. Staff may be reluctant to leave their children, and they shouldn’t be put under any pressure by their employer or colleagues to do so.
6. Staff may ask you if they can take holiday, so not to lose a day’s pay.
This will be up to you. Make sure you operate a first come first served basis to avoid allegations of discrimination and bias. In most cases you will already have staff absent next week, as its the first week of July and therefore you won’t be able to authorise further paid leave, even if its just one day.
In summary, flexibility may be the key to managing the impact of teacher strikes, so work with people who are trying to work with you is my advice.
If you need any assistance with any aspect of HR or employment law please call us on 01527 909436.