At the end of last month, parliament passed the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, and it has become the Strikes (Minimum service levels) Act 2023. This new piece of legislation mandates employees working in certain sectors to provide a minimum level of service when there is strike action. The sectors that the legislation will apply to when it comes into force, are:
- Health services
- Fire and rescue
- Border security
- Decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel.
This new act will require employers, who have been given notice by a trade union under section 234A, to provide the union with a written ‘work notice’, which is formal notification that levels of service under the legislation apply in relation to the forthcoming strike. However, before this can be done, the employer must consult with the union about the number of people to be identified and the work that will need to continue during the forthcoming strike action.
An employer will only be able to issue a ‘work notice’ within a defined period which begins with the day on which the section 234A notice has been served by the trade union until either the 7th day before the earliest strike date or, at a later date that has been agreed between both parties.
Within a ‘work notice’, the employer must set out which employee will be required to work during strike action and the work that is required to be carried out that ensures the minimum service levels are provided.
The legislation specifically requires that the employer to not identify more people that is reasonably necessary, when deciding on who will be required to work during the strikes.
Once a ‘work notice’ has been served, the trade union is required to take reasonable steps to ensure all members of its union who have been identified by the employer comply with the notice. Should a union induce a person to still take part in the strike action despite them having been identified in the work notice, then the strike action will not be protected.
Whilst this Act came into force on 20 July 2023, it is unlikely to become effective until at least 2024. This is due to the need for a consultation process and the writing of new regulations to introduce the law.
The new laws will apply to England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland.
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