Climate strike guidance

Employers across the UK are bracing themselves for the Campaign Against Climate Change strike, which is scheduled for Friday 20 September. As environmental concerns gain momentum, people are being asked to take action to show solidarity with striking schoolchildren who are spearheading the event.

Strike implications
Technically, an employee who decides to walk out of work to join the strike is effectively in breach of their contract, and is not entitled to receive pay for the time on strike. This leads to the issue of considering taking disciplinary action. This is different to unionised employees who join industrial action organised by the union.

How do employers handle the challenge of staff walking out to join the climate strike?
Some organisations may be supportive of the motives for employees not attending work, in which case, they may agree to pay staff as normal, as an ‘authorised absence’. However, there are possible compromises being mooted, such as Unite’s suggestion of a 30-minute workday action on Friday, eliminating the need for staff to take a whole day off work.

This removes the need for disciplinary measures or pay deductions. It offers employers an opportunity to support action, by agreeing for staff to stop work for 30 minutes in their workplace. However, if employees wish to take longer, you can specify it would have to be unpaid or they would need to make up the time.

Be sure to clarify to what extent you will support the movement and under what circumstances you would need to apply your normal attendance management. That is if you tell staff they are not authorised to take leave but they do so anyway, this could become a potential disciplinary matter.

Note that any support that you agree on this occasion may be expected again in the future, so communicate clearly that it only applies to this particular cause and event. If strike action becomes more regular or disruptive, you have the option to review your stance.

You may also want to share your expectations with staff about what is communicated in relation to your organisation, for example, if they are posting on social media.

Use the event as an opportunity to engage your staff in a discussion about promoting sustainability within your organisation. It could lead to a dialogue about supporting the cause and employees who want to take action.