What’s happening?

The National Education Union has called for its members to strike on Wednesday 1st February, before a series of further strikes throughout February and March.

According to the East Anglian Daily Times, 4,000 teachers in Suffolk are set to strike – over half of the teachers in the whole county.

This not only affects the delivery of the national curriculum but affects employers and employees across many other industries, as schools may close at short notice.

What do employers have an obligation to do?

Current strike laws allow union members to strike without notifying their employers before doing so, meaning that parents and guardians will not have much time to make alternative childcare arrangements.

Anyone with the status of an ‘employee’ has the right to time off for dependants under the Employment Rights Act 1996 s57a.

An employee has the right to take a reasonable amount of (unpaid) time off work to deal with ‘unexpected disruption in childcare arrangements’. Of course, parents are expected to make alternative arrangements for childcare, but this is easier said than done. Therefore, they still have the right to time off even if it is at short notice.  

Employers can offer alternative options if time off work is not ideal for either the employee or employer, such as paid annual leave, or the option to work from home (providing that this is practical).

Employees do have an obligation to comply with Section 57a (2) of the ERA 1996. Employees must notify their employer as soon as reasonably practicable in relation to needing the time off, and they must also notify their employer in regards to how long they may expect to be absent. If they fail to do this, then their right to take time off for dependants under s57a does not apply.

What if employers fail to comply with the right?

If an employer refuses to allow an employee time off for dependants when necessary, an employee could present a complaint to the Employment Tribunals. If a claim is successful, compensation may be awarded to the employee.

How we can help?

If you are an employer or employee dealing with issues surrounding time off for dependants, you need prompt, cost-effective and plain-English legal advice to ensure that you get the protection and support you need.

Should you have any queries in relation to any of the issues discussed in this article or indeed any other employment law issues, please do not hesitate to contact Hannah at 01206 239757 or hannah.campbell@attwells.com.


This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.

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