Industrial action: a guide to businesses’ rights

Industrial action: a guide to businesses’ rights

In the midst of the ongoing industrial action affecting the private and public sectors, many businesses want to know their rights if they are impacted by strike action.

In this article, we’ll cover how businesses may be affected by industrial action, and what steps they can take to protect their interests.

An overview of industrial action

Industrial action involves a group of workers at a company or in a specific sector withholding their labour in account of a dispute in the workplace.

There are a number of reasons why a group of workers may choose to strike or take ‘action short of a strike’, such as refusing to do overtime. Industrial action will typically occur after negotiations have failed to resolve a particular issue, which might include disputes over pay or working conditions.

Recognising a union

Only a recognised trade union can call on its members to strike.

To be recognised by you as an employer, a union must first request recognition in writing, including:

You do not have to recognise the union – although you must respond to the request within 10 days.

If you accept the request, you can then begin collective bargaining.

If you choose to request the request, the union may then file for statutory recognition with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Provided they meet certain requirements, the CAC is likely to approve their request.

When industrial action is permitted

If negotiations have failed to resolve a particular issue, then a union may call for its members to go on strike.

Industrial action is permitted and deemed lawful if:

Employees may not strike in solidarity with union members in a different union or employer without first going through the above process – known as secondary industrial action.

What businesses can do to protect themselves

Industrial action can be incredibly disruptive to businesses, resulting in a loss of income and output, missed deadlines and delayed projects. For this reason, employers may seek to protect themselves from losses caused by strike action.

Here are some examples of what a business might do to minimise the impact of strikes:

Some businesses may also be impacted by the secondary impact of strikes. These may include workers unable to get to work because of transport delays.

These employers may protect themselves by:

Although there are plenty of ways to mitigate the effects of industrial action, there are some steps that employers are not allowed to take, as long as strike action is lawful.

What businesses cannot do to mitigate strike action

Industrial action is designed to be a last resort in trade disputes. For this reason, there are certain things that employers cannot do to mitigate the impact of strikes of action short of a strike.

If your staff decide to strike, you cannot:

Support for businesses

Industrial action can have a major impact on the productivity and income of a business. Employers understandably want to mitigate this impact as far as possible, but the law around strikes can be hard to navigate.

For advice and guidance on supporting your business through a strike, please contact our expert team of employment law and HR specialists.

Contact us

Complete the below form and a member of our team will get back to you

If you would like to see full details of our data practices please visit our Privacy Policy and if you have any questions please email