Last reviewed 22 July 2022

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has confirmed that a change in the law came into force on 21 July under which businesses can provide skilled agency workers to fill staffing gaps caused by industrial strike action.

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

The new legislation will apply across all sectors including education where strike action can, as Mr Kwarteng put it, “force parents to stay at home with their children rather than go to work”.

Businesses most affected by industrial action will be able to call upon skilled, temporary staff at short notice to plug essential positions so that essential services can continue functioning.

Companies will, however, 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.

Transport Secretary 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.”

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 award will rise from £250,000 to £1 million.

The changes apply in England, Scotland and Wales.