How should private sector employers deal with the issues arising from the planned public sector strike?
The day of strike action has been well publicised. Both employers and employees have had time to put plans in place to deal with the consequences of the strike. Many employees will be keen to understand their rights should they be unable to attend work either because they cannot travel to the workplace or they have been unable to arrange childcare. It is therefore important as an employer that you have a plan in place and have clearly communicated to your employees how you will deal with absence from the workplace due to the strike action.
Employers are not obliged to pay employees who cannot attend work because of the strike action unless the employee has asked to take the day off as annual leave or there is a provision in their contract entitling them to be paid in such circumstances. Whilst employees have the statutory right to take reasonable time off to care for dependents in an emergency, again, there is no right to be paid for such time off. Generally speaking a consistent approach to whether time off due to strike action is paid or unpaid is a sensible approach. It is also important that whatever decision you take with regard to pay for time off due to the strike it should be consistent with previous incidents where employees have been unable to travel to work, such as last winter's heavy snowfall.
A plan to deal with the effects of the strike action should include clear communication to employees of the approach you will take, whether that be allowing employees to work from home, change their working hours, take the time off as annual leave or take unpaid time off work. A pragmatic, consistent and clearly communicated approach to the issues arising out of the planned strike action should minimise the employee relations issues that will arise as a consequence of the public sector strike.