Strikes Bill becomes law

Government Bill to introduce Minimum Service Levels during industrial action receives Royal Assent

  • Minimum Service Levels balance the ability of workers to strike with the rights of the public, who expect essential services they pay for to be there when they need them.
  • Government will now launch a public consultation on the reasonable steps unions should take to ensure their members comply with a work notice given by an employer.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Level) Act has today [Thursday 20 July] received Royal Assent in Parliament, ensuring workers maintain the ability to strike whilst giving the public access to the essential services they need.

Government will now proceed with plans to implement minimum service levels for passenger rail services, ambulance services and fire and rescue services.

Minimum service levels will ensure a minimum service operates in specified services during periods of strike action.

This will help protect the safety of the general public and ensure essential services are there when they need them – whether getting the train to work or being able to call an ambulance in times of emergency.

This will follow public consultations on the most appropriate approach for delivering Minimum Service Levels in passenger rail and blue light services. The Government is currently analysing responses and will respond in due course.

A public consultation will also be launched this Summer on the reasonable steps unions must take to comply with a work notice issued by employers under minimum service levels legislation.

This Government firmly believes that the ability to strike is an important part of industrial relations in the UK, rightly protected by law, and understands that an element of disruption is inherent to any strike. But the public expects government to act when their essential services are put at risk.

Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said:

"This legislation is an appropriate balance between the ability to strike, and protecting lives and livelihoods.

"The UK remains a world leader for workers’ rights and these new laws will not prevent a union from organising industrial action."

Industrial action has had a strong impact on access to emergency services and the UK economy, resulting in over 600,000 rescheduled medical appointments since December 2022 and at least £1.2 billion lost in the period June 2022-23 according to analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).

Following public consultation and approval by both Houses of Parliament, the Government will be able to set minimum service levels within key sectors, including emergency services, border security, education, passenger rail and the nuclear sector.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said:

"The ability of workers to take strike action is an integral part of industrial relations, however, this should not be at the expense of members of the public.

"The passing of this Bill will help give passengers certainty that they will be able to make important journeys on a strike day."

When minimum service levels are in force for a specified service, if the relevant trade union gives notice of strike action, employers can issue a work notice ahead of the strike, to specify the workforce required to maintain necessary and safe levels of service. They must consult with the relevant unions on the number of persons and the work to be specified in the work notice and take their views into account before issuing the work notice.

Department for Business and Trade
Kevin Hollinrake MP
Huw Merriman MP