How HR can support with Strike Action

How HR can support with Strike Action

We are currently faced with a summer of planned and potential strike action from a number of industries across the UK. Having already experienced several rail and bus strikes across many parts of the UK, causing congestion, disruption, and costs to many of us, what can we as HR do to help support our businesses that are faced with strike action from employees? 

Whether it’s a full walk out or a work to rule action that is being threatened/ carried out, as HR professionals we need to be able to advise the leadership teams on what we can legally do and not do.

When it comes to any form of industrial action it’s really important to remember that communication is key, and focussing on keeping those channels of communication open, is vital. Encouraging all parties to keep an open mind on resolution in an effort to diffuse the dispute, ahead of any action being carried out. 

Where conversations are stuck or blocked it maybe worth considering using a mediator, someone impartial who can review the dispute and help both parties come to a mutual compromise. 

Employers can withhold pay, overtime and bonuses for employees who undertake strike action, and unless the strike action is protected it can also in some cases dismiss the employee without notice. It’s unlikely any of this will be helpful to the already fragile relationship, and I’d always advise caution when carrying any of this action out – take legal advice to make sure you get it right.

Building trust and keeping communication going is the main thing in any of these situations. Strike action is a difficult thing for all parties. Be open minded to a resolution and flexible (where possible). Both parties need to continue a working relationship post resolution and so airing on the side of caution when it comes to taking action as an employer, is always best. 

The government have recently announced a change in legislation to allow employers to employ agency workers to cover employees who are striking. As this is a new change it’s unclear how this will work and will depend on how skilled the workforce need to be as to whether its an option for each business. Again this is likely to cause additional friction to the situation and may potentially cost employers more in the long run. 

As HR, our roles here are in essence to keep both parties informed and where possible encourage the open dialogue between the two. 

It’s never an easy role, and there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to resolving issues based around pay and conditions. For me, working on building trust and open communication in a workplace can help to alleviate any of these difficulties arising. What works for you?