If your child is off school amid teachers' strike can you get paid time off work?

The first national strike will affect 23,400 schools in England and Wales. Credit: PA

By Multimedia Producer Lottie Kilraine

Teachers in England and Wales are to strike for seven days in February and March in a row over pay.

The first national strike will take place on February 1 and will affect 23,400 schools in England and Wales.

But the industrial action could have a wider impact on working parents. So, what are your rights if your child's teacher goes on strike?

Can you take time off work if your child's school is closed?

The short answer is yes.

You are entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency. This is called "dependant leave", according to Citizens Advice.

Your employer can't refuse dependant leave if you have no other option - such as childcare arrangements failing.

Working parents should aim to inform their employers as soon as possible, recommended Russell Dann, a senior associate at Doyle Clayton workplace lawyers.

Teachers in England and Wales have voted to strike in February and March in row over pay. Credit: ITV News

Mr Dann told ITV News: "As with any unforeseen circumstances, a degree of flexibility and common sense must be required on both sides to limit the disruption.

"If alternative childcare arrangements cannot be made, in most cases employers would be ill-advised to refuse a working parent the day off.

"Employees should give their employers notice of the reason for the absence as soon as reasonably practicable and let them know how long they expect to be away from work."

If you’ve worked for your employer for one year, then you have the right to unpaid time off to look after your children.

This is known as "parental leave" - but it is only available to employees and does not apply to the self-employed, agency workers or contractors, unless it has been agreed with an employer.

Will you get paid for taking time off?

In both dependant and parental leave cases you won't be paid for your time off, unless your contract of employment says so.

You might be able to negotiate a holiday if you still want to be paid but that is down to employee discretion.

But crucially, you don’t have to make up the missed time later on.

Can I send my children to school on strike days?

According to the government website, it's the parent's "legal duty to send your children to school unless they are unwell". Your child's school may tell you otherwise, however.

These strikes come amid a wave of industrial action from other public sector workers, including nurses and ambulance staff. Credit: PA Images

Will schools be shut during teachers strike?

The government has said schools will need to take all reasonable steps to stay open for as many pupils as possible in the event of strike action.

For some schools there may be little or no impact from strike action, but others may be drastically affected.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said schools could have to shut if “staffing numbers are dangerously low”.

Some schools may have to combine classes to combat staff shortages or use pandemic-style remote learning if they are forced to close.

In England, it's up to headteachers whether they choose to close a school as there are no minimum staffing rules.

Head teachers are also responsible in Wales, in consultation with local authorities.

Why are teachers striking?

Teaching members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England and Wales, and support staff in Wales, voted overwhelmingly to strike on Monday to correct "historic real-terms pay cuts", the union said. The Department for Education (DfE) has offered a 5% pay rise to most teachers for the current school year, but the NEU is demanding a fully-funded above inflation pay rise for teachers.

The union said teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period.

When will the strike days take place?

  • Wednesday 1 February 2023: all eligible NEU members in England and Wales.

  • Tuesday 14 February 2023: all eligible members in Wales.

  • Tuesday 28 February 2023: all eligible members in the following English regions: Northern, North West, Yorkshire & The Humber.

  • Wednesday 1 March 2023: all eligible members in the following English regions: East Midlands, West Midlands, Eastern.

  • Thursday 2 March 2023: all eligible members in the following English regions: London, South East, South West.

  • Wednesday 15 March 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales.

  • Thursday 16 March 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales. 

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...