Category Archives: strikes

Season Of Discontent

This year has seen an above average number of compromise agreements signed off by HR practitioners, as organisations make redundancies and restructure to cope with tough trading conditions.  Whilst the general level of such agreements has gone up in line with the increase in redundancy exercises, there is a group of HR practitioners who are reaching ‘burn out’  and struggling with the demands of their role.

It has been a difficult time for many in HR, particularly if they came up through the profession during the boom years.  The heartbreak of planning and implementing lay- offs and redundancies can leave an effect on HR as well as the individuals who have to suffer the consequences.

We are moving into a second phase now.   Some clients are making top up or follow on redundancies (many on a smaller scale than their first round), others are still implementing large scale restructuring plans.

Meanwhile, we are now likely to see a season of strikes.  Royal Mail and British Airways are trying to avoid strike action, but we are moving perilously close to a ‘season of discontent’.   If this spreads to other sectors, it will put further stress on the workforce, and on HR.

Many HR departments have put a lot of work into making contingency plans for swine flu.  It is time to pick up those plans, and see how they can be adapted to deal with strikes.  Strikes will affect many workforces, even if there is no strike at the particular workplace.  From delivery and transport problems onwards, other people’s strikes can affect your organisation.   

This has been an anxious year for many people, and the level of stress in some organisations is very high.  Individual worries over job security and money have a cumulative effect.  And for individuals who have escaped the cuts themselves,   adapting to change at work after colleagues were made redundant can be a big burden for some people.  

It’s worth remembering that although there has been bad news in many organisations, there is good news in many others.  But good news does not necessarily mean no stress, and forward planning, timely communication and negotiation will reduce unease and the tensions implicit in any change.  HR departments need to be properly supported as they start this second phase, so that they can deliver what the business needs without burning themselves out.   The health and safety legislation applies to HR as well!

Click these links for other blogs on redundancy :

and link to this web page on Irenicon –

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.   Tel: 08452 303050  Fax: 08452 303060  Website :  You can follow Annabel on twitter – and check our regular articles and news throughout the autumn on our blog site –


Filed under employment law, redundancy, strikes

Pickets at the gate

You may not be ‘in dispute’ with your employees, but they may have jobs that involve visiting other sites where there are pickets at the gate.

If you are in a highly unionised environment you will have met this before, and you should follow your normal procedures, but if this is your first time around you should be aware that:

Many union members will refuse to cross picket lines

Even if your staff are not in a Union, they may have legitimate health and safety concerns about crossing some picket lines, and you should investigate carefully the circumstances of any refusal or failure to cross a picket line before considering whether you have a disciplinary issue with the individual concerned.

Whether they are entitled to be paid if they are not crossing picket lines depends in great part on your contract AND on the effect of this refusal.

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.   Tel: 08452 303050  Fax: 08452 303060  Website :  You can follow Annabel on twitter –

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Local transport difficulties

Many workers have been affected by local tube or rail disruptions.  Technically it is their job to get up earlier and find an alternative route into work.  In reality, many employers arrange home working (where appropriate) which reduces stress and improves productivity.

If you don’t have an established car sharing or lift sharing scheme, you should be careful you don’t end up setting up liability for uninsured drivers.  You should not be ordering or directing employees to get into a car with ‘Fred’ if you don’t know that Fred is insured.  If that is a fully insured company car that is different.

Hourly paid workers are not usually paid except for the hours they work, though salaried workers may be on a different basis.  You should check your contracts to see if you do in fact pay people on an hourly basis or some other way.

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