Government are now in serious talks with unions to prevent this Thursday’s teachers’ strike, many employees face taking an unscheduled day off to look after their children when the country’s schools shut.
Up to 750,000 public-sector workers are due to walk out on 30 June, after several trade unions successfully balloted for industrial action over pension changes.
This will include stoppages by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which are expected to disrupt up to 40 per cent of schools in England and Wales.
Union leaders are meeting with the Cabinet Office today in an attempt to settle the dispute, which centres on government plans to increase pension contributions and the age at which public service employees can retire.
Education secretary Michael Gove has written to head teachers, saying they have a “moral duty” to keep schools open. He even called on parents “to go in to help.”
Employers have been warned to assess the likely impact the strike will have on their workforce, as parents could be forced to book leave or request flexible working in order to care for their children.
“Employment legislation affords protection for domestic ‘emergencies’. This enables employees who are carers to take unpaid time off work and not to be subjected to a detriment for doing so,” explained Andrew Forrest, employment law associate at Weightmans.
“Although the employee will be expected to make alternative childcare arrangements due to the early warning of the school closure, it would appear harsh to discipline any employee should this not prove possible.”
Teachers will be joined in Thursday’s walkout by university and college lecturers, and civil service members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS). Further strikes including other public service workers from local government and the health service are being planned for the autumn.
Business Secretary Vince Cable indicated earlier this month that such widespread industrial action could spur the government into making changes to strike laws, although the coalition currently appears reluctant to go down that route.