The very first Minimum Service Level regulations have come into play from Friday the 8th of December as the Government attempts to cut disruption caused by industrial action, protecting public services.
The regulations saw parliamentary approval and will be applied to:
- The Rail Sector
- Border Security
- Ambulance Services
Minimum Service Levels for the rail sector will offer train operating companies the ability to reduce the effect of strike action, enabling them to run 40% of their timetable on days impacted by industrial action.
Strikes which impact infrastructure services will see some key routes able to remain open for longer than has been previously experienced during strike action.
France, Spain and the US are already using Minimum Service Levels and these new regulations in the UK have been created in order to cut the effects of industrial action whilst balancing worker's rights to strike and the public's right to key services.
Reasonable steps have been set out for trade unions following a public consultation and using the Statutory Code of Practice in order to enable members to comply with work notices which will support minimal service levels to be met. When strike action is called, and Minimum Service Level regulations are in place, employers will be able to issue work notices to people who are reasonably required to work in order to achieve minimum service levels.
Unions are required by law to take reasonable steps which will support members who are identified with a work notice to comply, unions failing to do so will lose their legal protection from damages claims.
2023 Saw the maximum damages awarded by courts for unions that take unlawful strike action, increased from £250,000 to £1 million.
Strike action has had an enormous impact on many industries across the country, not to mention the effects on the economy. Since December 2022, more than 1.1 million appointments have had to be rescheduled by acute NHS Trusts due to industrial action. Since 2019, there has not been a day without strike action on the rail network or mandates for strikes outstanding.
Rail Minister Huw Merriman said:
“Strikes cause stress and disruption to passengers and businesses and, whilst there is no silver bullet to mitigating the disruption from strikes, these regulations deliver a manifesto promise and will enable employers to reduce the impact from strikes.”
“As the Government, we have a duty to ensure the public can access key services, and while it is important workers maintain their ability to strike, this must not come at the cost of people getting to work, accessing healthcare or education.”