New law will allow agency staff to replace striking workers 

The government is changing the law to enable 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 will apply to other industries as well.

Under current trade union laws, businesses are restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to carry out duties by employees who are taking part in strikes.

The new legislation will give businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the services of agencies who 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.

Subject to parliamentary approval, these changes will be made through a statutory instrument and are set to come into force over the coming weeks across England, Scotland and Wales.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The situation we are in is not sustainable. Repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses freedom to access fully skilled staff at speed, all the while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking.”

The government has also announced that it is 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 have not been changed since 1982, will be increased. For the biggest unions, the maximum award will rise from £250,000 to £1 million.

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


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