If there’s a workplace dispute at your business, you should try to resolve it informally or through an impartial third party (arbitration).

Get advice on handling disputes and conflict in the workplace on the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) website.

You could work with a trade union to solve a dispute as well as with non-union employee representatives.

If you cannot resolve a dispute, workers in a recognised trade union may consider taking industrial action.

A trade union can only call for industrial action if:

  • the dispute cannot be solved by informal negotiations or arbitration
  • a majority of the members involved support it through a postal ballot (before organising one, the union has to decide which members it wants to ask to take industrial action)

Types of industrial action might include a strike or action short of a strike, for example not working overtime.

If workers go on strike, you do not have to pay them for the hours lost.

Using agency workers to cover during a strike

Agencies are not allowed to supply workers specifically to cover work that is not being done during lawful industrial action.

Agency workers already in place as part of your normal business can carry on as usual.

Dismissing workers who take industrial action

As an employer, you may face unfair dismissal claims if you dismiss:

  • employees within the first 12 weeks of lawful industrial action for taking part
  • some workers for taking part in the action, but not others
  • all employees but re-hire only some of them

Some employees might have protection from unfair dismissal for more than 12 weeks.