Strikes (Minimum Services) Bill receives Royal Assent
The Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act on 20 July. However, the minimum service levels (MSLs) provided for under the Act won't come into force until Parliament passes the requisite secondary legislation.
In addition, the Strikes (Minimum Services) Act only covers strikes and not other forms of industrial action short of a strike.
The Act allows the Secretary of State to make MSLs during strike periods to cover "relevant services" in the fields of health, transport, education, fire and rescue, border control, and nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management services. Where a union calls a strike in a service to which the minimum service regulations apply, the employer may, having first consulted the union, give the union a "work notice", identifying the workers that are required to work and the work they are required to do to ensure the MSL is met during the strike. The work notice must not identify more workers than are "reasonably necessary" to meet the minimum service requirement.
The union will lose its immunity from tort liability if it fails to take reasonable steps to ensure compliance by any union members identified in the work notice. In addition, if any worker identified in a work notice takes part in the strike to an extent not permitted in the notice, they will lose their automatic protection from dismissal.
The Secretary of State can make "minimum service regulations" setting MSLs for strikes in "relevant services" under section 234B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (a new section inserted by the Strikes Act). Relevant services are to be defined in future regulations, but will be limited.
Before making any regulations under the Act the Secretary of State must consult such persons as he considers appropriate. The regulations will then have to be made by affirmative resolution, meaning that they would need the approval of both Houses of Parliament before they could take effect.
The regulations may be framed so as to have effect in relation to any strike that take place after the day on which they come into force. The Act states that this would apply even if notice of the strike had already been given before the regulations are made, and even if the date of the strike ballot predates the Act coming into force.
Consultations on MSLs in relation to ambulance, fire and rescue, and passenger rail services were launched in February 2023, but no consultation has been launched in respect of any other transport services besides passenger rail.
The government has also confirmed that it will shortly launch a consultation on the reasonable steps that a union must take to comply with a work notice issued by employers.