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Predicted rise in demand for agency workers during strikes

In April this year, the Conservatives set out in their manifesto a promise to repeal “nonsensical restrictions banning employers from hiring agency staff to provide essential cover during strikes”. The Conservatives want to allow employers to use agency workers during strikes, by repealing the restrictions against this contained in Regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003. Consequently, on 15 July 2015, the Government published a new Trade Union Bill.

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, Roseanna Cunningham, has now written to the UK Minister for Skills, Nick Boles, requesting that Scotland be excluded from the scope of the Trade Union Bill.

The Government launched a consultation on the use of agency workers during a strike, which closed on 9 September 2015. We are still awaiting the outcome of that consultation, which is now overdue. In the interim, a move by a number of disgruntled MPs to seek to overturn the Conservatives’ proposals has been thwarted.

Accordingly, as things stand, the proposals appear likely to go ahead and demand for agency workers is likely to rise. Employment businesses may therefore want to start to talk to clients about workforce planning during potential strike action, implementing contingency arrangements and building a team of suitable candidates. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation has expressed concern at employment businesses parachuting agency workers in to client businesses in the midst of an industrial dispute. Affected employment businesses may therefore want to consider putting in place an action plan to protect agency workers during strike action.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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