Next Tuesday 5th July 2016, teachers who are members of the NUT may respond to their union’s call for strike action and not be in work. This may mean that schools will be advising parents in the next 24 hours if there is no school for their children on the 5th July.
What does this mean for day nurseries and pre-schools? 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. You would need to deduct their wages so not to treat colleagues differently. 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. Don’t forget that 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 childminders to look after their children before and after school may be closing for the day, leaving parents without the care they expected. You may have staff who are parents unable to open up at 7.30 a.m. but able to work later, if they can find someone to have their children during the day.
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. Don’t forget you may have staff who as in 1, can’t attend as normal so make sure its nothing that needs the whole team.
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.
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. I know I can leave my 12 year old, for short periods, when I am local, but I know friends with children of the same age that are not confident to do so. Everyone’s child is different.
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 staffing next Tuesday, 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.