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What to do when employees join a protest

26 October 2019
What to do when employees join a protest

In light of recent and continuing world protests, including those happening in Hong Kong, the recent UK climate change protests and the long list of protests happening in the US tech industry. It is clear, employees are more vocal about their core beliefs and whether or not they feel the company they work for is aligned with those.

Many aspects come into play when dealing with employees who join a protest (different to a strike) and there are a few different options available to employers.

What is the difference between a strike and a protest?

The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 sets out the conditions in which it is legally permissible for an employee to take part in a strike.

In effect, for an employee to be protected against a breach of contract, the strike must relate to a dispute between workers and their employer.

A protest, on the other hand, is not protected. It is up to the employer to assess each situation and decide on the necessary action they wish to take.

Options available to employers dealing with employees that protest

If an employee was to join a protest, during their contractual working hours, without taking it as annual leave, it is classed as an unauthorised absence. This can constitute gross misconduct, which may result in dismissal without notice or payment in lieu.

If an employee has taken the time off as annual leave (authorised absence) to join a protest there is not much, as an employer, you can do. However, by engaging with employees that hold such strong views you open a dialogue which benefits both employer and employee.

As an employer, you have the opportunity to support staff on issues that matter most to them, going above and beyond what is expected. Businesses are also finding that by actively engaging with social and environmental issues they are setting themselves up for continued long-term success, whilst also making themselves more appealing to potential customers and new hires.

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