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What do the new anti-strike laws mean?

Employment Law

What are the current rules for calling a strike?

As present, the law states that a strike can only take place following a vote between members of the union in which a majority agree to it.

The vote must be conducted via post, and if agreed, the employer must be informed of the details at least 14 days prior to the strike beginning, unless otherwise agreed between the employer and union.

If the rules laid out aren’t followed, a court could prevent the strike from taking place.

Currently, employees can be dismissed fairly after 12 weeks of strike action if the employer can evidence the fact it has been trying to settle the dispute.

Workers on strike will not be paid for the time period in which they do not work, but no-one is forced to strike and thus the decision is down to each individual employee.

What are the proposed changes to the rules around strike action?

Under the new proposals, some trade union members would be required to continue to work throughout the duration of a strike in order to maintain a minimum level of service. The sectors included in this are:

  • The NHS
  • Transport
  • Education
  • Fire and rescue
  • Border security
  • Nuclear decommissioning

Minimum staffing levels are still a figure yet to be determined, but to meet this minimum, employers would be able to issue a ‘work notice’. This would state the workforce they need to continue as well as resulting in any employee named to lose their right to protection from unfair dismissal if they still chose to go on strike.

Under the proposed legislations, bosses of key public services including health, education, fire, ambulance, rail, and nuclear, can sue unions and fire employees who refuse to work to the minimum level.

The new law will also support employers in seeking damage claims following strike action for any losses made, as well as supporting them in bringing in injunctions to prevent strike action in the first place.

For more information or advice on this matter, please contact our Employment Solicitor Katie Bowen Nicholas.

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