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Public sector strikes and your business

On Wednesday, 30 November 2011, public sector strikes are expected to hit the UK with 750,000 public sector workers voting to take strike action against government pension proposals. But what will the impact be on small businesses?

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On Wednesday, 30 November 2011, public sector strikes are expected to hit the UK with 750,000 public sector workers voting to take strike action against government pension proposals. 90% of schools are due to close, plus some public transport and traffic routes will also be affected. But what will the impact be on small businesses? Where small businesses are likely to feel the effects of the public sector strikes is through the closure of schools and social care facilities. For example, if you employ anyone with childcare or other caring responsibilities that may be affected by the strikes, they may well not be able to attend work on the day of the strike. What to do if the employee can't attend work due to strike action If the employee cannot attend work due to childcare or caring responsibilities, they are entitled to take the day as dependants leave. This protects them from discrimination "unexpected disruption to childcare", however, you are not obliged to pay them for this time off. If an employee cannot make it into work due to strike action for some other reason (i.e. not covered by dependants leave), you are not obliged to pay them for this time off. If an employee has outstanding holidays left to take, you can also offer them the opportunity to take the day as a paid holiday. But remember that you cannot force employees to take annual leave without their consent. Whatever you chose to do, make sure you act reasonably and take a consistent approach. Encourage all employees to notify you at the first possible opportunity if they are not going to be able to make it into work. If an employee gives you no notification that they won't be coming in, the absence can be treated as unauthorised unpaid leave. What to do if an employee is late for work due to strike action If an employee is late on the day of the strike due to delayed transport or other services, you should be understanding under the circumstances, but it is reasonable to ask them to make the time up. Again, you should encourage all employees to notify you at the first possible opportunity if they think they're going to be late for work. Explore alternative ways of working If it is appropriate for your business, you could allow employees with caring responsibilities to work from home on the day of the strike (though you cannot force them to do this if they wish to take dependants leave, as this is a statutory right). Simply let them know that the option is there if they wish to take it. This means that they don't lose a day's pay or holiday and you don't lose out on productivity. If you do choose to let employees work from home, agree beforehand what work will be done and monitor this on their return to work. Read more about home working and its effects on absence here > Plan for the future As public spending cuts continue to be felt across the UK, it is not unreasonable to expect that the likelihood of public sector strike action will also increase. Any disruption to your business, be it from strikes, bad weather or other crisis, costs you money and valuable productivity. You should put in place a business continuity plan which sets out what you should do in the event of any interruption so that you are not caught out by unexpected occurrences in the future. Read more about crisis management and business continuity planning > If your business is affected by strike action or you need advice on managing absence, call the Forum member helpline on 0845 130 1722.

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