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Strike action – agency workers can plug the gap

Blog written by Hannah Bollard, Solicitor, Anthony Collins Solicitors

The summer may be over (as the thunder and lightning has informed me) and the rail and postal strike action may have been called off out of respect for the late Queen Elizabeth II, but the discontent and strike action that my colleague Matthew highlighted in his previous blog, has only simmered down temporarily.

The issues which prompted the strike action which has already taken place still remain and are going to have an even greater impact on the lives of ordinary people this autumn and winter. Difficult pay negotiations and threatened industrial action are going to occupy employers’ minds across all sectors over the next few months and beyond.

The Government has now acted to remove the restriction on agency workers being supplied to businesses who are seeking to maintain their services in the midst of a strike. The amended regulations came into force on 21 July 2022 and will be seen by many employers as a welcome change. Employers in the teaching, social care and social housing sector are now in a better position to be able to plan for strike action and fill vital roles with temporary skilled workers, ensuring that crucial services to the most vulnerable in our society are continued.

It is important to note, however, that employers still need to ensure that those agency workers brought in to plug the gap are appropriately experienced and skilled to do the job. We are aware of care providers who have been rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for their overreliance on agency workers to fill hours. So whilst this is a welcome change, employers in regulated settings should continue to check the quality of the people brought in to fill the gaps left by strike action so that they do not face a regulatory issue.

Industrial action and using agency workers during strikes are topics that we will be covering in our Employment Law Update on 18 October. You can find out more and book your free space here.  

If you’d like to discuss the issues in this post, please contact Hannah Bollard. 

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