18 June 2012
60 second guide
... to dealing with industrial action
Industrial action covers an extremely wide range of situations where employees – with or without union support – take action in concert to pressurise an employer to do, or refrain from doing something.
Industrial action can involve a strike – a complete cessation of work by employees – or action short of a strike, which could potentially include working to rule, overtime bans or go-slow working.
Industrial action taken by employees may be official or unofficial. The extent, if any, to which employees (and the trade unions) taking or seeking to organise industrial action are protected from retaliatory action by employers – for example, withholding pay, subjecting those employees taking part in industrial action to disciplinary sanctions, or dismissal – will depend on how the industrial action has been arranged. Where trade unions are involved, it will also depend whether strict statutory balloting and notification requirements have been complied with.
If employee discontent escalates to a situation where as the employer you find yourself facing possible industrial action, it is vital to obtain specialist legal advice as soon as possible – otherwise you risk taking action which unwittingly makes a situation worse and, potentially, leads to significant financial liability.
Ruth Nodder, principal legal advisor, EEF
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