Employers are being urged to offer flexibility as more than 100,000 teachers go on strike today (1 February) in a row over pay.
The walkout is the first of seven planned by members of the National Education Union (NEU), who are demanding “a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise for teachers”.
According to law firm Paris Smith, employers need to think ahead about how their staff with children may be affected by potential school closures, and how as a business the situation can be managed.
Charlotte Farrell, senior associate in the employment team at, said: “Following Covid-19 many businesses are more comfortable with employees temporarily working from home to manage disruption in childcare arrangements. However, this does not apply to industries or job roles. Where working from home is not possible, other options may be needed, like taking time off for dependents, altering working hours or shift patterns for the affected days, or arranging other unpaid or paid leave, including holiday. The options are going to be different for all businesses.”
Around 23,000 schools in England and Wales are affected by today’s strike, but the NEU and other unions are planning action all across the UK, with a 16-day programme happening in Scotland.
Farrell added: “Where the strike dates are known in advance, businesses should be having proactive conversations with staff about how the strike days may affect them and what arrangements can be put in place. Practical steps such as avoiding arranging meetings on those dates can also help minimise the disruption caused by them.
“The same principles apply to those who have been affected by the train strikes recently, specifically those who rely on the trains to get to work but have been unable to rely on them in recent months.”
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, when price increases were taken to account, in England teacher salaries dropped by an average of 11% in real terms from 2010 to 2022.
Last year, most state-school teachers in England and Wales were given a pay rise of 5%.
In Northern Ireland, many were offered a 3.2% increase for both 2021/22 and 2022/23. In Scotland, a 5% rise and a later offer of up to 6.85% were rejected by teachers.
Announcing the strikes, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, said: “We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands. It is disappointing that the government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.
“This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period. The average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation.”
They explained that many teachers are leaving the profession, with a third doing so within five years of qualifying, and blame talent poor remuneration for recruitment and retention problems.
The pair added: “The government must know there is going to have to be a correction on teacher pay. They must realise that school support staff need a pay rise.”