Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 gains Royal Assent but high courts side with unions on agency worker dispute

24 July 2023

On 20 July 2023, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 gained Royal Assent. This will mandate a minimum level of staffing in some public sectors, restrict trade unions protection from legal action and restrict employee protections from unfair dismissal where minimum service levels are required.

The provisions come into effect upon royal assent and apply to England, Scotland and Wales.

However, on 13 July 2023, a High Court judgment ‘quashed’ the government revoking regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003. This article made it unlawful for employment agencies to provide workers where an employee was taking industrial action.

The government consulted on revoking the article in 2015, but received an overwhelming response from those not in favour of doing so. This therefore did not go ahead in 2016, but in June 2022 the government decided to continue with this plan without further public consultation.

With these two revelations it remains to be seen how the ongoing industrial action will pan out. With the threat of dismissal if minimum levels are not achieved, but agency workers unable to be used, it seems like both sides have achieved a small success and a small loss. What is clear is that any attempt to reduce the impact of industrial action is likely to be challenged by unions at every step.

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