Recent developments in industrial relations are gaining traction following a key announcement in the latest King’s Speech by Rishi Sunak. The government is set to forge ahead with the implementation of minimum service levels for crucial sectors such as passenger rail, ambulances, and border security.

Sunak’s confirmation outlines the government’s commitment to ensuring essential services remain operational during potential strikes. The proposed minimum service levels range from mandating a service to be ‘no less effective than if no strike was taking place‘ for border security to maintaining 40% of timetabled train services in the rail industry.

The catalyst for these changes can be traced back to the introduction of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 earlier this year. This legislative move was prompted by widespread strikes across various public and private sector industries, involving junior doctors, railway workers, and teachers. The envisaged regulations aim to stipulate that if a union calls for a strike in a particular industry, a specified number of employees in key roles must continue working, refraining from participating in the strike. The scope of this law is intended to encompass those employed in health, fire and rescue, education, transport, nuclear decommissioning, and border security.

In addition to these measures, the government has signalled its intent to initiate a consultation on the removal of regulation 7 from the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003. This regulation currently restricts employers from deploying agency workers to cover for striking staff, and its potential removal opens up new possibilities for managing workforce dynamics during industrial actions.

Many sectors – including those without a long history of strikes – have recently been affected by industrial action. It is now more important than ever for employers of all sizes, whether unionised or not, to understand the UK’s industrial relations landscape, and how to manage and engage with industrial action and collective bargaining.

If you would like guidance on the new regulatory changes and how to support your staff please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at HR Optimisation.