Businesses to hire agency workers to plug staffing gaps caused by strike action

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Businesses can now plug staffing gaps caused by industrial action with agency workers
Businesses can now plug staffing gaps caused by industrial action with agency workers

Related tags labour Strike action

Businesses impacted by strike action are now legally able to plug staffing gaps with agency workers, thanks to a new law that came into place yesterday (21 July).

Applicable to all sectors – including food and drink manufacturing – businesses most affected by industrial action will be able to call upon ‘skilled, temporary staff’ at short notice to plug essential positions.   

The changes apply across England, Scotland and Wales.  

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. 

Skilled, temporary workers

“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.” 

Companies will still be required to abide by broader health and safety rules and will be responsible for hiring 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 added: “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.” 

Damages against unions

The Government has also changed the law 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 will rise from £250,000 to £1m.  

Commenting on the new law, GMB Union general secretary Gary Smith said: It is shameful that instead of helping to find sensible, negotiated solutions to legitimate disputes, this government has pressed the P&O button.” 

“Working people across the country are suffering and taking action to feed their families and pay their bills during this cost of living crisis but Boris Johnson and his team just don’t want to know – in fact, they want to make it harder for people to defend their standards of living. With every passing day we see just how out of touch this Government is.” 

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