Explains how strike action can be considered a breach of contract, special rules for unfair dismissal during strike action, work to rule, the role of trade unions, picketing and secret ballots. Also includes a checklist for employers of the issues to consider when they are the subject of a threat of industrial action and key takeaways.

Introduction

Employees who engage in strike action are in fundamental breach of their contracts of employment and an employer is entitled to treat participation in strike action as bringing the contract to an end. However, if the employees give their employer notice of the strike action, and the notice is of a period equivalent to that required to terminate their contracts, then the courts have said that the contracts remain suspended during the strike and so there is no breach.

The Supreme Court has said that there is an implied term in every contract of employment that employees may lawfully give strike notice and that this notice suspends the mutual obligations of the parties, namely the obligation on the part of the employee to attend work and the obligation on the employer to pay.

Strike action and unfair dismissal

Work to rule

Trade unions

Picketing

Secret ballots

Tips for employers

Key takeaways

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