1. Overview

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 can’t 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 can’t be solved by informal negotiations or arbitration
  • a majority 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 (eg not working overtime).

If workers go on strike, you don’t have to pay them for the hours lost.

Using agency workers to cover during a strike

Agencies aren’t allowed to supply workers specifically to cover work that isn’t 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.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.