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Government launches consultation on minimum service levels – reasonable steps to be taken by a trade union

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

The Government has published a new draft statutory Code of Practice on the ‘reasonable steps’ a trade union should take to be compliant with the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023.

The consultation follows up the passing into law of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act which gained Royal Assent last month. This would allow the government to set service levels in key sectors such as transport, border security and emergency services during periods of industrial action.

Where a minimum service level has been set and a strike notice has been given, an employer can issue work notices to relevant unions identifying the staff who are required to work during the strike in order to meet the minimum service level. If a trade union fails to take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure that its members identified in such a work notice do not take part in the strike, it could face claims from the employer.

The consultation seeks views on a draft statutory Code of Practice providing guidance on those ‘reasonable steps’. The draft code contains recommended reasonable steps, including:

  • identifying those workers on a work notice who are the union’s members and, prior to any ballot for industrial action, keeping membership data up to date to help with that identification process;
  • issuing relevant members with an individual communication (referred to as a ‘compliance notice’) providing certain details, advising them not to strike and encouraging them to comply with the work notice; and
  • sending general communications (referred to as an ‘information notice’) with prescribed information to all members who the union believes may be induced to take part in the strike.

The draft code includes a template compliance notice and a template information notice. The consultation closes on 6 October 2023.

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