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| 2 minutes read

Minimum Service Level Bill triggers maximum level opposition

The anticipated Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill was announced yesterday by the business secretary, Grant Shapps. The Government frames it this way; 'millions of hard-working people across the UK will be protected from strikes thanks to new laws introduced today…'.  The unions and the opposition provide a different narrative; 'undemocratic, unworkable and illegal'.    

The battle lines are well and truly drawn!

What is in the Bill?

The Bill amends the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 meaning that the Government can issue regulations under the act which require that a minimum level of service must be maintained when a strike is called. If this is not maintained, certain protections afforded to striking unions and their members, when the strike is lawful, will fall away.    

Who will set those minimum service levels is a hotly contested issue; the Government reserves the power under the Bill to set them although it 'expects parties in these sectors to reach a sensible and voluntary agreement...'.  This may be a little ambitious and overly optimistic given the levels of anger and distrust between employers and unions. 

Who will it affect?

The Bill limits the sectors where minimum service levels can be set. They are health (it doesn’t initially appear that this would extend to cover social care although 'health' is not defined in the Bill), fire and rescue, education, transport, decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel and border security. In its announcement, the Government noted that it would only be looking at minimum service levels for fire, ambulance and rail services for now and ‘hop[ed] not to have to use the powers for other sectors included in the Bill’. 

So, for employers facing potential strike action in any other sector but fire, ambulance and rail, there is no immediate need for action or cause of concern. We would advise you to look on with interest as to the direction of travel of the Bill and its impact. 

When will it take effect?

The Bill is to be debated in Parliament next week. It is expected to get through the Commons relatively quickly given the Government’s majority but is likely to face more opposition and scrutiny in the House of Lords.

Whilst huge amounts of draft legislation are waiting in the wings until 'parliamentary time allows' it is unlikely that the same fate will fall on this Bill. It will most likely be fast-tracked so that it can be of use for future strike action planned in 2023. It is unlikely to affect strikes planned for this month. The Government has promised to consult on minimum service levels for the first three affected services although again, it is unlikely they will prolong this process. 

Unions have threatened legal action if the Bill is passed, and Labour has promised to repeal it if they win the next election. So even when the Bill is passed into law, it’s still got a rocky future! 

If you would like any more information on the Bill or to talk about specific strike action affecting your organisation please do contact me. We will keep you updated on developments as and when they arise in our blogs and ebriefings.    

"New laws will allow government to set minimum levels of service which must be met during strikes to ensure the safety of the public and their access to public services." DBEIS Announcement


strikes, employment law, labor & employment, labor disputes, minimum service levels, health and social care