On the 10th of January 2023, The Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill 2023(2), (the Bill) which is designed to enable employers to require enough workers to work to ensure minimum service levels are delivered during strikes within relevant services.
“The Bill” details
Relevant services include education services, but the Bill does not define minimum service levels, and at present we have no further details on this, other than the Government is focussed on ensuring minimum service levels to ensure the safety of the public and their access to public services.
The mechanism by which the Bill intends to operate is through a work notice. Where a trade union gives notice to an employer of strike action in relation to a relevant service, the employer may give a written work notice to the trade union which states that the minimum service level regulations apply to the strike.
If issued by the employer to the trade union, the employer must ensure the work notice:
- Identifies the people required to work during the strike in order to secure the minimum service regulations are met;
- Specify the work required to be carried out by them during the strike in order to secure the minimum levels of service.
Under current legislation, employees are protected from being dismissed in relation to participating in protected strike action, in that such a dismissal will be considered automatically unfair. The Bill states that employees identified in a work notice will be excluded from that protection, and so if they are named in a work notice, strike, and are then dismissed in relation to the strike, their dismissal will not be considered automatically unfair.
The Department of Education re-drafted non-statutory guidance on how schools should handle strikes ahead of possible walkouts
Ministers say they expect to reach voluntary agreements and would only consult on a minimum safety levels should these voluntary positions not be agreed, though they are yet to provide details on what this means in practice.
These proposals follow a change in the law made by the government in July 2022 enabling businesses to provide skilled agency workers to fill vital staffing gaps caused by industrial action. At the same time, the government also increased the damages a court can award for unlawful strike action.
Members of the House of Commons voted in favour of the bill at its first reading; and it will now progress to a second reading. If this proposed bill does get Royal Assent it is not expected to be received to avert the upcoming strikes by the NEU.
Guidance on Strike Action visit www.gov.uk