News story

New law in place to allow businesses to hire agency workers to plug staffing gaps caused by strike action

A new law is now in place that will enable businesses impacted by industrial action to plug staffing gaps with agency workers.

New law in place to make it easier for businesses to employ temporary staff during strikes
  • Law changed to allow businesses most impacted by industrial action to fill vital roles with temporary, skilled workers
  • Reforms will help ensure crucial public services and people’s daily lives remain uninterrupted by staff strikes
  • Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng: “In light of militant trade union action threatening to bring vital public services to a standstill, we have moved at speed to repeal these burdensome,1970s - style restrictions.”

Thanks to a change in the law coming into force today, businesses can now provide skilled agency workers to fill vital staffing gaps caused by industrial strike action.

With industrial action across a range of sectors threatening to disrupt crucial public services, the government has worked at speed to repeal trade union laws that restrict employment businesses from providing temporary agency workers to fill vacant positions caused by staff striking.

From today, businesses most affected by industrial action will be able to call upon skilled, temporary staff at short notice to plug essential positions. This will help to mitigate the disproportionate impact strike action can have both on the UK economy and society by allowing crucial services, that we all use on a daily basis, to continue functioning.

Today’s change in the law will apply across all sectors, for example, in education where strike action can force parents to stay at home with their children rather than go to work.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“In light of militant trade union action threatening to bring vital public services to a standstill, we have moved at speed to repeal these burdensome,1970s - style restrictions.

“From today, 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.”

While this law change will provide greater flexibility to businesses, companies will still be required to abide by broader health and safety rules that keep employees and the public safe. In addition, it will be the responsibility of individual businesses to hire temporary workers with the correct and suitable skillset and/or qualifications to meet the obligations of the role.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps said:

“While next week’s rail strikes will come too soon to benefit from this legislation, it’s an important milestone reflecting the government’s determination to minimise the power of union bosses.

“For too long unions have been able to hold the country to ransom with the threat of industrial action but this vital reform means any future strikes will cause less disruption and allow hardworking people to continue with their day to day lives.”

The government has also changed the law today to raise the maximum damages that courts can award against a union, when strike action has been found by the court to be unlawful. For the biggest unions, the maximum award will rise from £250,000 to £1 million.

The changes apply across England, Scotland and Wales.

Published 21 July 2022