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The Big Question: What if your staff go on climate strike?

PUBLISHED: 10:48 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:49 18 September 2019

Extinction Rebellion protesters  in London Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/Press Association

Extinction Rebellion protesters in London Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/Press Association

PA Wire/PA Images

HR specialist Carole Burman ponders this month's conundrum.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has asked adults to join school children on a General Strike on September 20  Picture:  Stefan Rousseau/PA WIRESwedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has asked adults to join school children on a General Strike on September 20 Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WIRE

The Question:

Greta Thunberg and leading youth strikers for climate action from across the world have called for all adults to join a global general strike this Friday September 20. They are asking people to walk out of work just before a crucial UN summit at which nations are being urged to declare much stronger ambitions to tackle the climate emergency. With a growing awareness of the urgent need to tackle climate change, what would you advise employers to do if their workers took the day off to take part in the action?

 

READ MORE: 'I am prepared to get arrested' - a new brand of climate change campaigning comes to Suffolk

 

The Answer:

 

Extinction Rebellion March for Our Children Bury St Edmunds Feb 2019  Picture: Extinction Rebellion Bury St EdmundsExtinction Rebellion March for Our Children Bury St Edmunds Feb 2019 Picture: Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds

'Your response could speak volumes about your company's values...'

 

In this type of situation, the first question that usually crosses an employer's mind is "where do I stand legally?"

In the absence of a clause within the employment contract, specifically covering this situation, there is nothing in law allowing people to take this time off as it is technically "unofficial strike action". That said, before jumping into dealing with the absence as a disciplinary matter, just take a moment to pause and reflect.

How you choose to respond could speak volumes about your company's values and have an impact on the culture you are trying to create. Given that this particular topic is high on the agenda, you may choose to take a proactive approach to engaging with your team, so that you can be clear about who wants to support this event so that you can consider how this will be managed internally and what the impact will be on the individual; will it be taken as holiday? Will it be unpaid leave?

 

Dialogue

Carole Burman at HR specialist MAD-HR Picture: David GarrardCarole Burman at HR specialist MAD-HR Picture: David Garrard

Encouraging dialogue is a great way to engage the team, to find out what is important to them and could also pave the way to the business advancing their CSR (corporate social responsibility) credentials. The business could utilise this opportunity to lead conversations on what all parties can do to minimise their impact on the environment, globally and locally, involving employees in the discussion and bringing teams together in the process.

To attract the best new talent into your business, you need to ensure that you are clear about your proposition - what you stand for and how you manage your teams. This is clearly an issue which is important to young people as evidenced by Greta's passion but remember that this is also your future talent pool.

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