Teacher strikes - payroll, pensions and HR implications

With Teachers’ strike days on the horizon, and the potential for more to come if unions decide to re-ballot, we know this is a time of many questions around the practicalities of payroll, pensions and HR issues.

Our payroll, pension and HR experts have gathered information that will answer your questions and give you some practical advice.

Let’s start with payroll

The payroll side of things is pretty straightforward. If employees choose to strike, they do not receive pay for the time they are striking.

This is calculated as 1/365th of total pay every day they are on strike or pro-rata for part-time staff.

How does striking affect pensions?

This information will be carried through to pension payments and submissions if we undertake your pension management. There is complexity surrounding the impact of striking on Teachers’ Pensions concerning pension bandings.

  • The pension banding needs to be calculated on the actual pay received in the month – so this may drop the employee into a lower pension band.
  • Absence due to industrial action cannot be classed as reckonable service and must be shown as days excluded.
  • Members in full-time employment will not accrue reckonable service on each strike day, and strike days with be recorded as ‘days out on the members’ Annual Return Service record. ​
  • For part-time members, we are required to record the actual part-time salary paid and the full-time equivalent. This means that the loss of pay due to strike action is reflected in the Part Time Salary Paid​.
  • There is no need to complete the “Days Excluded” field if there is a sum of part-time salary paid.​
  • The strike days will not be recorded as reckonable and will not be used in any calculation for pension purposes.​
  • Members over the Normal Pension Age will not be entitled to retirement benefits for the strike days, provided the service is recorded as ‘days out rather than a service break.​
  • Members remain covered for the ‘in-service’ death grant if they die while on strike.
  • There’s no provision in the Scheme for members to buy back strike days.

HR considerations

Keeping the school open

The DfE has called on Head Teachers to ‘take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible.’ The decision to close, open, or restrict access is down to the Head Teacher for maintained schools. For Academies and MATs, the decision to close, open, or restrict access is for the Academy Trust, but this is usually delegated to the Principal/Head Teacher.

It is good practice for Head Teachers to consult parents, Local Authority, and governors before deciding whether or not to close.

Head Teachers can ask staff if they are going to strike; however, the staff are not obligated to answer and can change their mind without notification.

Health & Safety

All reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that staff and students are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. This applies to activities on or off the school premises, and therefore schools should bear in mind that some responsibilities (i.e. out of school clubs) may well be impacted due to strike action.

Deploying staff

As previously mentioned, Head Teachers can ask staff if they intend to strike to enable them to plan how they will manage the strike, but remember that staff are not obliged to answer.

Teachers employed under STPCD cannot be compelled to provide cover for other teachers on strike.

Cover supervisors can be directed to provide cover for teachers on strike as long as they are employed wholly or mainly to provide cover and are not themselves on strike.

Specified work Regulations 2012

Classes in maintained schools and some academies should be taught by a qualified teacher.

The above does not apply to Free Schools and academies established after 2012 or any academy established before 29 July 2012 that agreed to change its funding agreement.

The regulations do not stop a school from using support staff to carry out specified work; however, they must be directed and supervised by a qualified teacher. The Head Teacher should be satisfied that they have the skills to carry out the work.

Some schools may look at bringing together classes with teachers and support staff working together who must ensure students’ health and safety.

For students aged seven and over, there is no set ratio for the number of staff required to supervise them whilst on site.

If a Head Teacher is on strike, the duties should be delegated to a member of the Leadership Team. If they are all striking, the trust can approach a senior teacher.

Nursery and Infant classes

Schools should follow the Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage. Schools can, on strike days, provide flexible activities provided the children are safe and adequately supervised.

Supply agency staff

Since July 2022, it has been possible to use supply agency staff to cover the work of staff on official strike action.

Directly employing someone

The school can use a one-day fixed-term contract to cover strike action. The pay for the above would be in line with STPCD.

The terms of the TPS (Teacher Pension Scheme) state that teachers employed for one day are entitled to the same pension benefits as other employees. General employment rights would also apply.

Anyone recruited in line with the above would require an enhanced DBS clearance.


Schools can utilise existing school volunteers (with the relevant DBS clearance) to provide supervision and/or identify new volunteers to support current staff and current volunteers. Volunteers must be supervised by another staff member or be DBS cleared before volunteering.


There is no legal requirement to deliver this on strike days.

School meals

Schools do not have to close if they cannot provide the usual standard lunch service due to strike action.

Students that receive free school meals should still be provided with this. The options are to arrange temporary cover to prepare the meals on-site, prepare packed lunches or arrange for meals to be delivered to the school. The DfE has recommended that schools work with the catering team to make ‘good quality lunch parcels’ available for those children with free school meals.

Breakfast or after-school clubs

For out-of-hours care, such as breakfast or after-school clubs, for children who usually attend nursery classes, the staffing ratio, if no teacher is present, may be 1:8 if at least one member of staff holds a full and relevant level 3 qualification and at least half of all other staff hold a full and relevant level 2 qualification.

For children who normally attend reception class or older, there must be sufficient staff for a class of 30 children. Providing there are enough suitably qualified members of staff present to meet these ratios, there is no need to suspend out-of-hours care during strike action.

Recording student attendances

The Y code should be used for students who are told not to attend on a strike day.

If a student is required to attend and they do not, they should be marked as absent in the usual way.

Place prioritising

If the school can only accommodate certain numbers on a strike day, you should apply the principles set out in the following:-

  • Emergency planning and response guidance
  • Vulnerable children and young people
  • Children of critical workers

In addition to the above, priority should be given to students due to take examinations or formal assessments.

Preparing for critical parent comms during teacher strikes

Parental communications are a key part of any contingency plan, including communications during strike days. Parents need to be kept informed without additional stress on your workforce.

Read the blog from IRIS Education that gives 6 tips for ensuring communication with prents runs smoothly and efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a school seek exemptions for striking staff?

Yes, this is where the union agrees not to call on certain employees to participate in the strike, e.g. school road safety officers, school crossing patrols and employees in residential schools.

An exemption could also be negotiated for any employee who could suffer long-term financial hardship, such as;

  • Employees in the pension scheme in their last year of service
  • Pregnant women where the employer has been notified of the maternity dates
  • Employees whose state benefits could be affected if they take part in a strike

Can a teacher take annual leave on a strike day?


Do teachers have to make up the time they missed whilst on strike?


Can I compel a teacher to set work for students to complete on a strike day?


Do strike days count as reckonable service for Teacher Pensions Scheme?

No, strike days should be recorded as days excluded.

Do I pay the teacher when they are on strike?

There is no entitlement to pay whilst an employee is on strike. This is because the statutory protection against any deduction of wages does not apply in relation to strike days.