How can we help?


Green light for agency staff use during strike action

A new law, ‘The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022’ came into force on 21 July, which has the effect of allowing employment businesses to supply agency staff during strike action.  

Prior to the 21st July, employment businesses were not allowed to supply agency workers to employers to carry out the duties of employees who were taking part in official industrial action or to cover the work of employees who are covering the duties of striking employees.  

Where employment businesses breached these rules, this amounted to a criminal offence – meaning the business could be prosecuted and fined.  

An employer who commissioned the supply of agency workers could also be found guilty of the ‘common law’ criminal offence of aiding, abetting, counselling, or procuring that offence.  

It is important to remember that although the change will reduce the effectiveness of industrial action, it will not eliminate all hurdles for employers.

Change in law on agency staff

The change to the law which came into effect on 21st July allows a business affected by official industrial action to take on agency staff to cover the striking workers.  

This change will likely result in industrial action becoming much less effective. There is understandably therefore already staunch opposition to the change – UNISON for example, has announced that it intends to challenge the new law in the High Court.  

It is important to remember that although the change will reduce the effectiveness of industrial action, it will not eliminate all hurdles for employers. Many roles cannot easily be covered by agency staff due to the skillsets required of the role holder. Safety critical roles cannot easily be covered by agency staff either, as businesses will still need to comply with their health and safety obligations, and will therefore need to ensure that any agency staff they take on have the necessary training and qualifications to be able to carry out safety critical work.  

Agency workers with the specific skills and qualifications are unlikely to be bountiful at a time when the country is facing a massive staffing shortage.  

As well has the agency worker law changes, the Government has increased the cap on damages that can be sought against a union where strike action is found to be unlawful. The caps depend on the size of the union. They used to range from £10,000 to £250,000, but as of 21st July 2022 onwards, the cap increased to £1 million for the largest unions with 100,000 members or more.  

Further information

All companies need to be prepared for the unexpected, our employment solicitors can help organisations identify and prepare and provide a rapid response to industrial relations issues, whilst also strengthening employee engagement. Find out more about our industrial relations and trade unions services.


About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

About this article

Read, listen and watch our latest insights

  • 12 June 2024
  • Privacy and Data Protection

UK data protection: Important basics

Sometimes, data protection can seem like unhelpful red tape. At other times, it is critical to cultivating a trustworthy reputation.

  • 11 June 2024
  • Immigration

UK Immigration Roundup – May to June 2024

As the UK approaches the upcoming general election, immigration remains a focal issue in political discussions. The Conservative party’s recent proposal to cap visas for skilled migrant workers has alarmed various industries who are concerned that a limit to migration could harm vital sectors of the UK economy.

  • 06 June 2024
  • Employment

Talking Employment Law: What does the new Worker Protection Act 2023 mean for employers?

In this podcast, Lucy Densham Brown and Shauna Jones, members of the employment team, will review the new Worker Protection Act 2023 and provide some guidance on how employers should review their policies in preparation for October.

  • 03 June 2024
  • Commercial Real Estate

Sustainability and commercial property: green leases  

Climate change is considered by many the biggest threat we are facing today. With the UK said to have one of the oldest housing/building stocks, the focus on a building’s environmental performance and sustainability has never been more critical.

  • 03 June 2024
  • Employment

Using AI technologies in recruitment: is it fair and transparent?

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, where artificial intelligence (AI) plays an increasingly pivotal role in HR and recruitment processes, ensuring responsible and ethical implementation is paramount.

  • 03 June 2024
  • Employment

Navigating the Labour Party’s New Deal for Working People: Legal implications and opportunities

Join Monica Atwal and Amanda Glover, for this in-person seminar on ‘Navigating the Labour Party’s New Deal for Working People: Legal Implications and Opportunities’ at our Reading office on Thursday, 20th June.