How to deal with staff absences caused by strike action

We are heading into another busy period of strike action this month, including teachers and train drivers. There’s no doubt concern about impacts to other businesses who’s employees rely on these services. 

I don’t think there are many who have avoided disruption caused by industrial action over the last couple of months, and whilst many employers are sympathetic and offer flexible working (where possible) there is always a bigger impact somewhere. 

I know that this action isn’t something new, and the way we work post-pandemic is relatively different, for example more and more companies can offer a working from home or flexi-hour approach to accommodate the above actions impacts. However, that’s not the case to some SME’s who perhaps have customer facing businesses, production/manufacturing or leisure and retail businesses. 

If an employee is in a business where the flexibility just simply can’t be met, then there are some limited options open to them such as emergency dependency leave. Now this may only be granted by the company in extenuating circumstances and will be different for each business, it’s not guaranteed.

Working in HR for as long as I have I’ve rarely come across a business that is unwilling to look at ALL options open to support those employees that simply have no alternatives. It’s not in their interests to make a difficult situation worse, planning, openness and compromise is what will get you through this. 

As a company owner and HR professional I will always advise my clients to think outside the box when it comes to emergency planning. Something most of us have become really good at with the pandemic, so applying some of that here would help. Here’s some of the suggestions I’ve worked to implement during recent strike action to help meet the needs of the business with the impacts on employees: 

Inhouse childcare: Now bear with me here. One of the biggest stresses on parents in the pandemic was home-schooling, so for one client hiring in turning a meeting room into a ‘kids club’ for the day was a no brainer. I must say it was a small number of children (all 7+ in age) and they manned it by volunteers taking it in turns to watch over them. Simple things like craft activities, films, and games. 

Car Share Scheme: Employees could register themselves on an internal site and book journeys with others in their area. 

Job Share: Not all employees will be impacted by the strikes, and one business offered employees to pick up admin tasks from home and those making it in picking up the tasks that are needed in person. 

Limiting the impact of absences will require creative thinking, there is always a way but finding the one that works for you may just take a bit of time. My top tips are to be open to options, be open with customers, employees, and suppliers about any impact, managing expectations of those around you will ease the stress of the situation. 

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How to deal with staff absences caused by strike action