New law allows agency staff to replace striking workers

The government has changed the law as of 21 July 2022, enabling businesses to use temporary agency workers to plug staffing gaps caused by strikes.

The move is in response to the current industrial action by members of the RMT rail union but applies to other industries as well.

Under the previous law, businesses were restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to carry out duties by employees who were taking part in strikes.  

The new legislation gives businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the services of agencies that can provide skilled staff at short notice to temporarily cover essential roles for the duration of the strike. 

Businesses will still need to comply with broader health and safety rules that keep both employees and the public safe. It would be their responsibility to hire cover workers with the necessary skills and/or qualifications to meet those obligations. 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Businesses exposed to disruption caused by strike action will be able to tap into skilled, temporary workers to provide the services that allow honest, hardworking people to get on with their lives. That’s good news for our society and for our economy.”

The government has also changed the law raising the maximum damages that courts can award against a union when strike action has been found by the court to be unlawful.  

The caps on damages, which previously had not changed since 1982, have increased. For the biggest unions, the maximum award has risen from £250,000 to £1 million.

These changes apply across England, Scotland and Wales.

Please contact us if you would like advice about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law. 

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