With the inflation rate at the highest level in forty years, and employers struggling to keep wages in line, the UK is currently facing the largest number of strikes since 1989. There is no positive legal right to strike within the UK, however, the law does provide a defence (statutory immunity) for those who take part in any lawful industrial action. As the discontent continues amongst workers in 2023, and further strikes are scheduled, employees and employers should be aware of the procedures which must be followed for a strike to be consider lawful.
Where an employee is taking part in a lawful industrial action, as discussed above, it will automatically be considered unfair to dismiss this employee for doing so. If an employee believes they have been unfairly dismissed for taking part in industrial action they may be entitled to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
Whilst on strike, employees are permitted to gather at, or near, their place of work to peacefully demonstrate why they are striking. They are not, however, permitted to call for, or threaten to call for, the inducement of “secondary” industrial action and to do so will result in a forfeit of any statutory immunity. It is therefore always advised to have a trade union official present at any picket line to ensure picketing is managed correctly and lawfully.
In response to the mass industrial action the UK is facing, the government are now seeking to introduce a new anti-strike law. This will allow the government to set minimum levels of service which must be met during strikes in a bid to ensure public safety and reasonable access to public services. The effect of these new laws will mean some employees could have their employment terminated if they take part in industrial action that has been appropriately and democratically organised.
Despite there being no positive legal right to strike in the UK, these new anti-strike laws could be seen as a breach of individual’s human rights, specifically Article 11 of the ECHR which guarantees a right to freedom and association, including the right to form trade unions. Governments are permitted to restrict these rights, but only so far as necessary in a democratic society. This begs the question, is it fair and proportionate to dismiss employees for taking part in correctly organised industrial action or is this a blatant breach of the individual’s human rights?
Our employment team have a vast experience of assisting employers and employees on their rights and responsibilities. If you are interested in any updates in this movement or need some bespoke advice about a specific situation please do not hesitate to get in touch.
By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.mshblegal.com/