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How to Take Industrial Action In The Workplace

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 14 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
How To Take Industrial Action In The Workplace

If there is a dispute in your workplace that is unable to be resolved through talks and negotiation then you may feel the need to take industrial action. This is not a move to be taken lightly and there are a number of things you need to consider before taking action. It can be an effective way of making your company take notice of your grievances but if you don’t go about it properly then you could find yourself without a job.

Types of Industrial Action

The three main types of industrial action that you could take are:
  • A strike
  • Action short of a strike
  • Lock out
The most well known of these is where workers stop working and go on strike. Often this is just for a day to make their point but it can go on for longer. You may choose to take action short of a strike instead though which can mean actions such as go-slows or overtime bans. The other type of industrial action is when the employer is responsible for stopping workers from doing their jobs.

How To Take Industrial Action

If you decide to take industrial action you need to make sure that you do it officially through a union and follow the right procedures. Otherwise you will have no backing if your company decides to dismiss you. Firstly, industrial action must only be taken for a legitimate dispute with an employer where other avenues to resolve it have been exhausted. Then the union must hold a secret ballot and the majority of members must vote to take industrial action. After this the union must give the employer a detailed statement of the action at least seven days before it takes place.

What Could Happen

If your colleagues go on strike you do not have to join in and can choose not to strike. If you do decide to take part in the industrial action you need to be aware of the consequences. Your employer has every right not to pay you as you will be in breach of your contract and can also take away your benefits. They can sack you too but as long as you have taken the correct procedures and the action was ‘official’ then you will be able to claim for unfair dismissal.

Getting Help

Before you consider taking any type of industrial action you need to consult your union first. If you have taken action and been dismissed then you need to find out about taking your employer to an employment tribunal. For more information about unions contact TUC or talk to ACAS about any work disputes.

Taking industrial action can be an effective way of making your voice heard but you need to make sure that you and your union go about it in the right way. Be sure to conduct a secret ballot and give your employer good notice of the action otherwise, if they decide to dismiss you, you may not be able to claim that it was unfair.

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[Add a Comment]
sarah - Your Question:
Working for a company that forces to stay otherwise you a threatened to leave. also any extra hours are never paid. and 8 hour shifts with no break! help

Our Response:
If you are in the UK and think you are being treated unfairly in work, you can ring ACAS for more advice. However, if you do, make sure you have a copy of your contract to hand and have read it so you are aware if your company is breaking the European working time directive.
WelfareAtWork - 15-Feb-17 @ 11:31 AM
working for a company that forces to stay otherwise you a threatened to leave. also any extra hours are never paid. and 8 hour shifts with no break! help
sarah - 14-Feb-17 @ 11:47 AM
jo - Your Question:
If my contract says I am "entitled to" a 30 min unpaid break in addition to the legal 20 min paid break, do I have to take the 30 mins or can I work through and take the money instead? It just says "entitled to" not "mandatory" or "have to". If I work through can my employer deduct 30 mins from my working hours each day? This would mean I would only get paid 7½ hours for working 8 hours. I find the 20 mins paid break is plenty of rest time.

Our Response:
You would have to negotiate this directly with your employer.
WelfareAtWork - 2-Dec-16 @ 11:58 AM
If my contract says I am "entitled to" a 30 min unpaid break in addition to the legal 20 min paid break, do I have to take the 30 mins or can I work through and take the money instead? It just says "entitled to" not "mandatory" or "have to". If I work through can my employer deduct 30 mins from my working hours each day? This would mean I would only get paid 7½ hours for working 8 hours. I find the 20 mins paid break is plenty of rest time.
jo - 1-Dec-16 @ 5:46 PM
KIM - Your Question:
Is it the law if you work a 8hr shift, that the first 2hrs you must have a break.

Our Response:
The article: Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights? here should answer your question regarding what breaks you are legally allowed to when living and working in the UK.
WelfareAtWork - 2-Aug-16 @ 12:48 PM
is it the law if you work a8hr shift, that the first 2hrs you must have a break.
KIM - 2-Aug-16 @ 6:14 AM
mick - Your Question:
I work for a chemicle company supplying farmers with poisens as a van driver.My employer deducts 1 hour per day for lunch brakes,which our supervisior refuses to let us have due to the rediciolous work load he puts on us,We are maid to work every sat and every bank holiday from 6am to somtimes 7-8pm six days aweek is this right?

Our Response:
Please see link: Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights? here. I suggest you speak to your employer directly specifying that your break times are at odds with the terms laid out in your contract. If your employer refuses to resolve the issue, then I suggest you raise a grievance. You can either do this personally or with your colleagues, please see link here . I hope this helps.
WelfareAtWork - 6-Jun-16 @ 11:55 AM
I work for a chemicle company supplying farmers with poisens as a van driver.My employer deducts 1 hour per day for lunch brakes,which our supervisior refuses to let us have due to the rediciolous work load he puts on us,We are maid to work every sat and every bank holiday from 6am to somtimes 7-8pm six days aweek is this right?
mick - 5-Jun-16 @ 10:58 AM
NVM - Your Question:
I work in the Telecoms industry. This week I'm working a late shift doing Monday to Friday, 11am 'til 7.30pm. I was 'on-call' last night from when I left work. I went to bed but was called out at midnight and was working on the problem until it was solved at 1.15am, which is when I went back to bed. I was called out again at 4am. I worked on the problem until handover at 7am. I had to go back to work for an 11am start. Is this legal? I was told I had to be in work for my usual time in the morning, 11 am, but because of being called out I was obviously very tired and finding it hard to function, both physically and mentally. I realise my employer may well be within his rights, as theoretically my shifts are more than 11 hours apart, yet it doesn't seem right. I am alarmed as I was so tired I felt it was dangerous to even drive in that state. Please advise.

Our Response:
You would need to check with your employer about this directly along with the information regarding call-outs laid out in your contract. It should specify in the contract what you can and cannot be expected to do. If you have any further doubt give ACAS a call.
WelfareAtWork - 12-May-16 @ 1:05 PM
I work in the Telecoms industry.This week I'm working a late shift doing Monday to Friday, 11am 'til 7.30pm.I was 'on-call' last night from when I left work. I went to bed but was called out at midnight and was working on the problem until it was solved at 1.15am, which is when I went back to bed. I was called out again at 4am. I worked on the problem until handover at 7am.I had to go back to work for an 11am start.Is this legal?I was told I had to be in work for my usual time in the morning, 11 am, but because of being called out I was obviously very tired and finding it hard to function, both physically and mentally.I realise my employer may well be within his rights, as theoretically my shifts are more than 11 hours apart, yet it doesn't seem right.I am alarmed as I was so tired I felt it was dangerous to even drive in that state.Please advise.
NVM - 11-May-16 @ 9:06 PM
Stressed!!! - Your Question:
I am a bar worker on a zero hours contract. I have never actually signed a contract but have been at the company for nearly 7 months. I regularly work 6/7/8 hour shifts without an official break. The owners say that in lieu of a break they pay us an extra 15 mins per 6 hours, but this has never happened in the time I have been there. If the bar is very quiet we get to sneak out for a 2 minute break for half a cigarette (all the staff smoke and the managers were all aware of this when we were employed). The company are now stating they they are stopping all breaks and introducing a 'no smoking' policy in the company so all the staff will be affected. But on a Monday I usually work 3.30pm until midnight. Will I be able to legally object to breaks being stopped?

Our Response:
You should have been given a contract by your employer, so you would need to follow this up. Under the Working Time Regulations you are entitled to a 20 minute break for every six hours or more you work. Please see ACAS link here. You may wish to contact ACAS directly, as your employer cannot legally stop all breaks, unless you are working under the six hour benchmark.
WelfareAtWork - 7-Mar-16 @ 11:49 AM
I am a bar worker on a zero hours contract. I have never actually signed a contract but have been at the company for nearly 7 months. I regularly work 6/7/8 hour shifts without an official break. The owners say that in lieu of a break they pay us an extra 15 mins per 6 hours, but this has never happened in the time I have been there. If the bar is very quiet we get to sneak out for a 2 minute break for half a cigarette (all the staff smoke and the managers were all aware of this when we were employed). The company are now stating they they are stopping all breaks and introducing a 'no smoking' policy in the company so all the staff will be affected. But on a Monday I usually work 3.30pm until midnight. Will I be able to legally object to breaks being stopped?
Stressed!!! - 6-Mar-16 @ 3:04 AM
I was working for a company trough a recruitment agency, 8 hour shifts without any break, I brought it up with my recruitment agency, they had no knowledge of it, the company lied and told them breaks can be taken whenever (but I didn't get one at all).I am a single UK citizen, born and raised, I have a 5 year old daughter whom I have all the time. Now I have lost my job for questioning my rights, and with no reference as the agency and company fobbed me off for trying to work legally.
Moj - 6-Feb-16 @ 2:43 PM
Lrain - Your Question:
I have just started a new job of 6 hours a day. Previously I was there on a zero hours contract and was given a 15 minute break as were all the part time staff. I am aware I am not entitled to a paid break but I need to eat something! I have been told I cannot eat at my desk but can take an unpaid break of 20 mins. That adds up to 100 minutes per week I'd lose financially which I cannot afford. Can they stop me from eating at my desk? The 7 hour a day employees get their breaks paid so this seems unfair. I'm also still waiting for my contract which should have been given to me weeks ago. is this legal?I'm in front of the computer all day and never take a break from the screen, it's affecting my eyes. Anything I can do?

Our Response:
When you are working you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. If you wish to take a 20 minute break, your employer is under no obligation to pay you, in fact most breaks these days, including compulsary lunch breaks for full-time employers, are unpaid. Therefore, your employer is well within its rights.
WelfareAtWork - 2-Dec-15 @ 12:07 PM
I have just started a new job of 6 hours a day. Previously I was there on a zero hours contract and was given a 15 minute break as were all the part time staff. I am aware I am not entitled to a paid break but I need to eat something! I have been told I cannot eat at my desk but can take an unpaid break of 20 mins. That adds up to 100 minutes per week I'd lose financially which I cannot afford. Can they stop me from eating at my desk? The 7 hour a day employees get their breaks paid so this seems unfair. I'm also still waiting for my contract which should have been given to me weeks ago. is this legal? I'm in front of the computer all day and never take a break from the screen, it's affecting my eyes. Anything I can do?
Lrain - 1-Dec-15 @ 5:17 PM
My Award is the Children Service's Award 2010 and I would like to ask to be paid for my meal break so that I can go home 30 minutes earlier in the day so that I can pick up my own children which is 40 minutes away from my work. Can I ask to sit and share my lunch with the children at work so that I can be paid the break.I know my employer would let me go home earlier but I don't want to lose2 1/2 hours a week for sitting outside.I don't go shopping or anything at lunch time, I really just want to eat with the kids. Thanks
Gurky - 27-Nov-15 @ 1:46 AM
I work in an a alarm centre and work 8 hour shifts. Earlies, evening and nights. We use to have a slow workload and we told our breaks can be taken whenever as long as we are in the same room as we were never busy. Now with new contracts, we never get a break. Evenings and nights are fine however day shifts are a joke - non stop working and no breaks over an 8 hour period. Id love to just leave to get fresh air and a half an hour break. Is this legal?
Gem - 27-Sep-15 @ 11:26 PM
@carlz - there are occasions and specific jobs where there is an exemption to the structured break rule which includes those that work in the armed forces, emergency services or police, because of the unpredictable nature of the job. However, you should be awarded equivalent compensatory rest. This means that if a rest period is postponed you must be allowed to take it within a reasonable period of time. See link here which will explain your entitlement further. If you have any further queries, I suggest you give ACAS a call in order to get some supplementary advice. I hope this helps.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Jun-15 @ 2:29 PM
I am a detention officer for west yorkshire police I work 10 hour shifts and get 40 mins taken off my pay for a break. I never ever yet have had a break, also some staff do manage to get a break and then when it gets busy they say no more breaks are tobe taken???? can they do this???
carlz - 4-Jun-15 @ 5:47 PM
@Razor - unfortunately for you it is legal. Under the Working Time Directive which applies to most adult workers, including those who work part time, are employed by an agency or if you work as a freelancer, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. Therefore, even on a 12 hour shift, you would still only be legally entitled to ONE rest break. For example, if you are given a lunch break of 20 minutes or more, that counts as your full entitlement for that day. If you work five hours per day, any break your employer gives you is entirely discretionary. I hope this helps.
WelfareAtWork - 13-May-15 @ 2:58 PM
In my job in am on zero hour contract. I am constantly being given 5 hour shifts with no break. Over a week it accumulates sometimes to 25 hours or so with no break whatsoever. Other employees do longer shifts say 7 hours and always get break. It adds up to sometimes the same amount of hours per week yet they get breaks every shift. Is this legal?
Razor - 12-May-15 @ 5:24 AM
@rocky - Under the Working Time Directive which applies to most adult workers, including those who work part time, are employed by an agency or if you work as a freelancer, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. Even on a 12 hour shift, you would still only be legally entitled to one rest break. For example, if you are given a lunch break of 20 minutes or more, that counts as your full entitlement for that day. The break must be given to you during your shift and not at the beginning or end of it. However, to be given no breaks is illegal and you need to firstly refer to your contract as see what it says. Then I would advise you give Acas a call via the link here. You will be able to access some good advice on how to take this situation forward. I hope this helps.
WelfareAtWork - 18-Feb-15 @ 12:06 PM
Hi I work as a mobile carer I'm full time and I have a 13 hour shift with no break and they will not take any calls from me so I can have one is this legal?
rocky - 16-Feb-15 @ 4:18 PM
@Scoop - As specified in our article How Many Breaks am I Entitled to? link hereunder the Working Time Directive which applies to most adult workers, including those who work part time, are employed by an agency or if you work as a freelancer, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. Therefore, even on a 12 hour shift, you would still only be legally entitled to one rest break. For example, if you are given a lunch break of 20 minutes or more, that counts as your full entitlement for that day. The break must be given to you during your shift and not at the beginning or end of it. I hope this helps.
WelfareAtWork - 16-Dec-14 @ 1:59 PM
I work in a care home and am in the 30 day consultation period to have my 7hr shifts changed to 12hr shifts. We are being given 1/2 hr unpaid break so our shift will be 07.45-20.15. Is this fair?
Scoop - 15-Dec-14 @ 10:56 AM
@diane, you should be allowed to go outside during your break if there is someone else to cover you during that time. Does it stipulate in your contract what rules there are regarding leaving the premises during breaks? Some places of work do not allow this and it's stated in the employment contract.
benny w - 30-Jul-14 @ 2:24 PM
I work in the daytime as a security guard. Over 8 hours a day. What are my rights to go outside during a break for fresh air? An early reply would be appreciated? Regards, Diane
Diane Colley - 30-Jul-14 @ 11:04 AM
I work on the railway. On a 12 hour shift my supervisor made me take my hour break 3 hours after i started. Is this legal? Thanks
David - 17-May-14 @ 8:33 PM
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