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What is the new proposed anti-strike bill and what does it mean for employers?

Posted by Davenport Solicitors Team on January 24, 2023 in Employment Law

The UK Government has announced plans for a Parliamentary bill. It says it will ensure vital public services maintain a “basic function” during industrial action.  But what is the new proposed anti-strike bill and what does it mean for employers?

The bill, which has been dubbed the anti-strike law, is due to go through Parliament in the coming weeks.  If passed, the bill will impact six key public services and see trade unions bound to follow the legislation. Those who do not comply would be at risk of the employer bringing an injunction to prevent the strike from taking place, or seeking damages after the event if strikers and unions do not stick to their obligations.

What is the purpose of the anti-strike bill?

The bill plans to set minimum service levels for fire, ambulance, and rail services, following a consultation which is expected in the coming weeks. For the other sectors specified in the Bill – comprising other health services, other transport services, education, nuclear decommissioning and waste management, and border security – the Government expects to continue to reach voluntary agreements. However, minimum service levels could still be imposed as a fall-back option. 

The Bill is wider in scope than its predecessor, the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons in October 2022 and which has now been abandoned. In addition, rather than providing the statutory underpinning for enforceable voluntary agreements, the new Bill would confer powers on the Secretary of State to impose them without agreement.

As currently drafted, the whole of the Bill would become law the day it receives Royal Assent. In addition, it enables minimum service levels to be imposed even if the industrial action ballot took place before the Bill became law, or the necessary regulations were not made until after the notice of strike action was given to the employer.

Who is the bill applicable to?

The Bill would apply to the whole of Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland. Last week’s press release explains that the Government is engaging with the devolved administrations “throughout this process”.

Will there be opposition?

There is likely to be considerable political and other opposition to the Bill. Even assuming a smooth passage through Parliament, it seems unlikely that the new legislation will become law before the current round of disputes is over.

We hope you have found this post ‘what is the new proposed anti-strike bill and what does it mean for employers?’ useful.  Should you have any questions, please contact a member of our Employment Law team here.

The material contained on this website contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. While every care has been taken in the preparation of the information on this site, readers are advised to seek specific legal advice in relation to any decision or course of action.

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