By Maximilian Clarke

As more than a million of the UK’s public sector workers prepare for a day’s industrial action this Wednesday (30th), widespread disruption among staff, services and transport networks is anticipated across the UK, with damaging consequences for businesses nationwide.

Commenting on various legal issues surrounding day of strikes, Jonathon Exten-Wright, partner at global commercial law firm, DLA Piper LLP comments:

On the use of agency workers during the strikes, Jonathon highlights the legal issues in hiring temporary staff:

“As the well-publicised row over civil servants covering the work of striking UK Borders Agency staff demonstrates, public sector organisations also face difficult issues over how to keep essential services operating when staff are on strike. There are legal restrictions on using agency workers to cover for striking workers, so employers cannot bring in temporary cover from outside the organisation. Non-striking workers can be asked to cover for colleagues, but many union members will refuse to do so and employers may not be able to enforce this depending on what contracts of employment say.”

And on the disruption to the UK’s schools, and to parents affected by disruptions, Jonathon said:

"If the strikes go ahead the consequences could be immense. Many schools have already notified parents that they will be closed on 30 November due to the strike, leaving parents across the country to make last-minute alternative child care arrangements, and possibly taking the day off work, disrupting thousands of employers. Employers may have the option to prevent employees taking leave if they act quickly, but this will inevitably lead to significant employee relations issue; if employees are not given much notice of school closures, they may have rights to take emergency dependent's leave in any event. Although the unions will by now have given the required 7 days' notice of strike action, it may then take time for each school to confirm what the impact will be, particularly as individual employees are under no obligation to inform their employer whether they intend to strike. Employers may need to consider whether they can implement flexible working for some employees to minimise disruption and may also need to closely monitor absence on the day of the strike".

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