Employers’ guide: What to do with striking workers

Do employers have to pay staff who are taking part in the strike?
No, while on strike, employees are not performing under the terms of their contracts of employment and therefore no payment will be due from the employer.
Do employers have to close down for the day?
No, but they may choose to. If firms do decide to open as usual, they should clearly inform their employees that they will be open should they decide they do not wish to participate in the strike.
If employees attend work, then they are of course entitled to be paid for the time worked. If they do not attend, then it should be treated as authorised unpaid leave. You should not take disciplinary action against those who do not attend for work. It is advisable to keep a clear note of who has and who hasn’t attended work, as this will avoid any disputes at a later stage.
If you decide to close the workplace for the day, you would be preventing employees who may be ready willing and able to attend work on that day from doing so. Consequently, in the absence of a clearly worded contractual lay-off clause, you would be obliged to pay your employees for this day.
What about employees who call in sick on that day?
Businesses should tell their staff that calling in sick on that day will not be accepted without evidence of genuine illness, such as a certificate from their doctor. Firms should inform them that if such evidence is not provided then the absence may be treated as unauthorised and they may not be eligible for sick pay.
This should discourage people who are taking part in the strike from calling in sick in an attempt to get paid.
Do we have to agree a request for holiday on that day?
No. Employers are entitled to refuse an employees request for holiday based upon the needs of the business. If an employee’s request for holiday is refused, firms should clearly inform them of the refusal and the requirement for them to attend work and outline the possible consequences should they not do so.
Can we use agency workers to cover strikers?
Employers sometimes seek temporary staff to replace employees taking part in an official strike. Agencies cannot provide employers with workers in these circumstances. There are, however, no restrictions on employment businesses supplying staff to replace employees involved in unofficial strike action.
Do employees have to tell us in advance whether or not they will be attending work or striking?
There is no legal requirement on an employee to confirm in advance whether they will be attending or striking.
What happens if one of my employees can’t come to work because their child’s school has closed and they need to look after them?
Then it could be emergency time off for dependents – which is unpaid. However, the employees would be expected to follow the correct absence reporting procedure.
This Q&A was prepared by employment consultancy Croner