Today’s industrial action will have a significant impact on many private sector businesses, as many parents find that their child’s school has been closed for the day. We have put together the following FAQ’s which should assist you in dealing with any issues which arise:
My employee advised me last week that his child’s school will be closed today and explained to me that they need to take the day off to look after their child. Do I have to pay him or is the time off unpaid?
Employees have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take "necessary" action to deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant.
Arguably, if an employee has had advance notice about a likely school closure, this would fall outside of the scope of this right. However, allowing a day’s unpaid leave in these circumstances is appropriate. Unless there is a contractual clause requiring employer’s to allow paid time off in these circumstances (and this would be quite unusual), time off would be unpaid.
My employee contacted me this morning to let me know she would not be coming to work today because her child’s school is closed. I am frustrated that my employee didn’t let me know about this in advance, as an important meeting was scheduled to take place this afternoon. Is there anything I can do?
If you are thinking about taking disciplinary action as a result of your employee’s late notice that they wouldn’t be able to work today, you first need to make any enquiries you can about when the employee found out that the school was closed. If it is the case that you think the employee would have known about the school closure for some time, you may decide to invite her to a formal investigation meeting upon her return to work to discuss this further. If your enquiries show that the school was closed unexpectedly and your employee only discovered this today, then this would be considered emergency leave to deal with an ‘unexpected breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant.
My employee has called in sick today and I have doubts that the employee is genuinely unwell. I think that the reason for the employee’s absence is due to the strike and their inability to make alternative childcare arrangements. Is there anything I can do?
If you suspect that your employee has been dishonest you will need to invite them to an investigation meeting to discuss this with them further, upon their return to work. Of course, this situation is only likely to arise in cases where company sick pay is paid. Where a company pays SSP only, the first 3 ‘waiting’ days are unpaid in any event. If after the investigation you still have suspicions that your employee was not genuinely ill then you may decide to progress matters to a disciplinary hearing. If you do this you should ensure where possible that a different manager chairs the disciplinary meeting.
For further guidance, please contact the Employment Team.