Industrial action: what you need to know

06 September 2019

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, Unite national officer for health, examines your right to take industrial action as health visitors go out on strike in Lincolnshire.

For the first time ever, health visitors are on strike. HVs in Lincolnshire have been on picket lines throughout the summer over their pay, de-skilling and the undermining of the profession.

We salute them for this brave step in defending their service and profession. It was not a rash decision, and came at the end of months of talks with Lincolnshire County Council.  

As they too reach the end of their tether, others may decide to follow Lincolnshire’s example. Here, we answer some commonly asked questions about strikes and industrial action.


What is industrial action?

Industrial action is usually split into two categories: strike action, which is any concerted stoppage of work; and action short of strike action such as ‘go-slows’ or ‘working to rule’.


What is lawful industrial action?

In the UK, there is no positive right to strike. Industrial action organised by a trade union is lawful as long as a number of conditions are met:

  • The action has to be about a trade dispute between the union and employers as defined by section 244 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
  • The trade union must call a lawful ballot of all members of the union who they believe are part of the dispute. This means the trade union must ensure that members’ details such as job role, location and contact information are up to date.
  • The general secretary of the union must authorise the industrial action before it can lawfully take place.
  • There are very strict rules about the information the union must give to the employer when giving notice of an industrial action ballot, providing the results of the ballot and calling for the industrial action to take place.


Am I breaking professional codes by taking industrial action?

No. In 2014, the NMC said: ‘The code does not prevent nurses and midwives from taking part in lawful industrial action but we remind them of their duty to uphold their professional standards at all times. The code will continue to apply in the event of industrial action.’


Will an employer deduct my pay if I take industrial action?

An employer can deduct your pay for taking part in strike action, but the deduction cannot be more than one-fifth of your weekly pay. The union tries to ameliorate the effect of a deduction of pay for strike action by offering strike pay of up to £50 per day, each day of strike action.  


Do I have to be a Unite-CPHVA member to take industrial action?

Yes, lawful industrial action is organised by trade unions.


Will I be dismissed for industrial action?

It is illegal to dismiss someone who’s taken part in any lawful industrial action within 12 weeks of the action.

Taking industrial action is always a last resort, but it is always an option should trade unions and employers enter into a dispute. It shows how serious the issues are, and that members are united to bring about the best results from collective bargaining. 

Further information

Contact us at [email protected] if you have any queries on industrial action – or visit the following links:

Photo Credit | iStock