Businesses can now hire agency workers as cover during industrial action

As was widely publicised at the time of the rail strikes in late June 2022,  the Government has now changed the law to allow businesses which are impacted by industrial action to fill the roles of striking staff with temporary workers.

This has been achieved by removing the relevant provision in the Regulations governing the conduct of employment agencies which,  until now,  restricted employment businesses from supplying work seekers to perform the duties normally performed by a worker taking part in a strike or other industrial action.

This change applies across all sectors and not only in the public sector as had been reported in certain media outlets.

This amendment to strike laws supplements the further change which also came into effect this week increasing the maximum damages that courts can award against a union when strike action is found by the court to be unlawful. The increased cap on damages means that for unions with 100,000 or more members the maximum award has increased from £250,000 to £1 million.

The extent to which this week’s changes actually provide a significant benefit in practice for employers involved in industrial disputes remains to be seen.   There will be certain roles which cannot be covered effectively by agency workers and, in addition,  there is a risk that agency workers may be unwilling to fill the roles of striking workers and/or to cross a picket line.

The Government news releases, together with the relevant statutory instruments are available using the links below.

New law in place to allow businesses to hire agency workers to plug staffing gaps caused by strike action

Government acts to make it easier for businesses to use temporary staff to help ease disruptions caused by strike action

Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022

The Liability of Trade Unions in Proceedings in Tort (Increase of Limits on Damages) Order 2022

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