Firstly, we would like to wish early years professionals every success in their stalwart endeavors to make positive change within the sector.
We have had numerous calls and emails from providers and staff looking for the legal implications of the protest. This is complex as there are many factors to consider. There is the ‘legal’ answer to some of your questions, but we also encourage you to balance your approach, and perhaps look for solutions within your own setting. It is also important to acknowledge that all services are different, large and small, community and private, with different funding contracts and different parent profiles. Some services have high levels of parental support, others do not and are fearful of the long-term outcomes for their business.
We hope that a balance can be struck between the needs of parents and children and employees and employers who may wish to participate and that empathy and understanding prevail given the circumstances.
The HR Implications
If a Provider Decides to Close
Some services have already made the decision to participate in the protest and are informing their parents this week in writing of their decision and asking parents for their support. Services, in this case, are making the decision to close and they will be supporting and attending the protest. As the service is closing, they are obliged to pay their employees whether they work or not unless there may be a short time/lay off clause in the contract, which could be invoked but this is unlikely as it is just one day. It is the employee’s personal choice regarding attendance at the protest meeting.
If the Service Remains Open
If the employer makes the decision that the service will remain open, they may still inform and seek parents support for the protest generally, if they wish. In this case the employer should also communicate this decision to their staff that they are not closing. Staff may request to attend the protest meeting even though the service is not closing but In this circumstance the employer is not obliged to pay the employee.
The employer may agree to
- Release a number of staff on full pay where this is possible as a representation of their group
- Individual employees may request annual leave to attend the meeting
- The employer may agree unpaid leave
Release of staff may be dependent on numbers of children attending the service on the 5th February 2020.
It is in these circumstances that employers are encouraged to look for a compromise, which may include operating a reduced service, if possible. This may or may not be an option.
If services find they are not in a position to attend the protest but want to support the day , they could organise other ways ( and get their team involved in a constructive and planned manner) such as an awareness campaign with parents, social media input etc so they can support their colleagues, who have decided to protest.