Elections and appointments

Frequently asked questions

About our industrial action in Northern Ireland

Here are our most frequently asked questions about action short of strike and strike action.

Industrial action involves members of a trade union working together to achieve a goal by withdrawing their labour. There are two types of industrial action; strike action and action short of a strike. A union must hold a ballot before organising either form of industrial action. There is no legal right to strike in the UK, but there are certain protections in place for those taking lawful and authorised action called by the relevant union – such as protection from unfair dismissal.

You can only take part in industrial action if the relevant trade union has balloted for industrial action and achieved a majority yes vote in that ballot. The RCN has successfully balloted for industrial action in relation to the current dispute with HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland.

Taking part in a strike action means not doing any work at all on the day (or part of the day) specified by the union. It is a well-established way of workers harnessing the power of their collective solidarity to incentivise their employer to stop doing something that will be detrimental to the workers – such as a refusal to agree to an outcome in ongoing negotiations that would be acceptable to the unions involved. The labour of its employees is one of an organisation’s most valuable assets, so if a large number withdraw their labour for even a day, it can have a major effect on the organisation’s finances and reputation – and in many cases if delivered effectively, this will prompt them to reconsider previous positions such as around pay and conditions.

During industrial action short of strike and strike action, the activity of RCN members, including derogations and exemptions from participating in the action, will be directed by the RCN local Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. As such, once a member has indicated to their manager whether they intend to participate in the industrial action, the manager should report/escalate that information through the Trust management and planning systems without the need to obtain further information from the member. This will help avoid potential difficulties arising between Trust managers and RCN members participating in lawful industrial action.

While a strike is a complete stoppage of work, action short of a strike usually affects some aspects of work, normally a refusal to perform full normal duties in some way.

This could be ‘working to rule’ which is a form of action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, and precisely follow all safety or other regulations. For example if you usually work through your lunch break or stay an hour late because you have such a high workload, you could start observing your breaks and leaving exactly on time in accordance with your contract, but if you and lots of others are consistently doing extra unpaid work out of your own good will and it suddenly stops this may be very impactful for your employer. It could also involve not agreeing to work overtime, which can have a similar effect

The RCN has created a document titled “What is meant by industrial action” which explains the forms of action short of a strike which the RCN is asking members involved in the industrial action in Northern Ireland HSC Trusts to take.

During industrial action short of strike and strike action the activity of RCN members, including derogations and exemptions from participating in the action, will be directed by the RCN local Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. As such, once a member has indicated to their manager whether they intend to participate in the industrial action, the manager should report/escalate that information through the Trust management and planning systems without the need to obtain further information from the member. This will help avoid potential difficulties arising between Trust managers and RCN members participating in lawful industrial action.

In any dispute, the RCN will communicate clearly and regularly with members so that they are fully informed as to whether they are affected and can get involved.

During industrial action short of strike and strike action the activity of RCN members, including derogations and exemptions from participating in the action, will be directed by the RCN local Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. As such, once a member has indicated to their manager whether they intend to participate in the industrial action, the manager should report/escalate that information through the Trust management and planning systems without the need to obtain further information from the member. This will help avoid potential difficulties arising between Trust managers and RCN members participating in lawful industrial action.

Yes, nurses can take strike and take industrial action short of strike. Any industrial action called by the RCN will ensure that patients are not put at risk, and you will never be asked to act outside your Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code of Conduct. The RCN will work with management to ensure there is sufficient emergency cover during any stoppage. Most industrial action in the health service is likely to use the emergency care model, when only those providing non-urgent care services are called on strike to ensure patients aren’t harmed.

The RCN is committed to the maintenance of essential services in acute and emergency situations. While responsibility for maintaining patient safety sits with the employer, we will work constructively with managers to ensure robust contingency arrangements are in place in the event of any sort of major incident.

Yes, managers can take strike action and industrial action short of strike. Any industrial action called by the RCN will ensure that patients are not put at risk, and you will never be asked to act outside your NMC code of conduct. The RCN will work with your employer to ensure there is sufficient emergency cover during any stoppage. Most industrial action in the health service is likely to use the emergency care model, when only those providing non-urgent care services are called on strike to ensure patients aren’t harmed.

The RCN is committed to the maintenance of essential services in acute and emergency situations. While responsibility for maintaining patient safety sits with the employer, we will work constructively with organisations to ensure robust contingency arrangements are in place in the event of any sort of major incident.

It is not a breach of the NMC Code of Conduct to take part in lawful industrial action and the NMC have during previous disputes confirmed this position in the following statement:

“...we recognise that many midwives and nurses are members of trade unions and respect their democratic right to express support for their unions and to lobby on a wide range of issues. This does of course include their right to support and take part in strike action … The Code does not prohibit nurses and midwives from taking part in industrial action.”

However, the NMC also issued the following reminder:

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.”

When industrial action is arranged in a way that complies with trade union legislation you can claim unfair dismissal if you are dismissed for taking industrial action at any time within the 12 weeks after the action began. There is no immunity for breaches of the NMC Code of Conduct, or any other misconduct that may take place during the action. The RCN will never ask members to take industrial action in a way that is likely to lead to breaches of the code. The RCN will fully support members in the usual way should they face any disciplinary action whether during industrial action or not.

The NMC has issued information on industrial action which can be accessed here.

When a union decides to ballot its members on willingness to undertake industrial action, the ballot will ask whether members are willing to take strike action, action short of a strike, or both. The form of action ultimately taken will depend on the outcome of the ballot – for example members may feel they are willing to take action short of a strike such as working to rule (see question 3) and return a majority vote for this, but not feel they want to go on strike and fully withdraw their labour. Or they may vote equally in favour for both types, in which case sometimes it may be appropriate to start with action short of a strike and build up to a full stoppage if needed. Ultimately decisions will be taken by the relevant elected RCN decision-making authority, ensuring that the wishes of members are taken into account.

RCN members voted for both industrial action short of strike and strike action. RCN Council have agreed to begin industrial action short of strike and progress to strike action in furtherance of the dispute. The exact form of action proposed will always be explained in detail to members once decided and sufficient support and guidance made available. Please refer to the RCN guidance on industrial action short of strike.

During industrial action short of strike and strike action the activity of RCN members, including derogations and exemptions from participating in the action, will be directed by the RCN local Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. As such, once a member has indicated to their manager whether they intend to participate in the industrial action, the manager should report/escalate that information through the Trust management and planning systems without the need to obtain further information from the member. This will help avoid potential difficulties arising between Trust managers and RCN members participating in lawful industrial action.

All the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland have been formally informed of the RCN strike action on Wednesday 8 January and Friday 10 January 2020.  It is the employer’s responsibility to plan for the action and to take steps to maintain appropriate staffing levels, patient safety and risk management.

During industrial action short of strike and strike action the activity of RCN members, including derogations and exemptions from participating in the action, will be directed by the RCN local Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. As such, once a member has indicated to their manager whether they intend to participate in the industrial action, the manager should report/escalate that information through the Trust management and planning systems without the need to obtain further information from the member. This will help avoid potential difficulties arising between Trust managers and RCN members participating in lawful industrial action.

If an employer has concerns over the delivery of a service, it is their responsibility to discuss it with the union authorising the action. The RCN has established local Dispute and Strike Committees to liaise with employers in relation to the impact of industrial action and any requests that the employer may make to the RCN for ‘exemptions’ from industrial action.  It is not appropriate for the employer to ask individual RCN members to engage in discussions about how work subject to industrial action is covered.  Members should refer their manager to the local RCN Dispute and Strike Committee.

The RCN will make clear which members it is asking to go on strike in the event of a positive ballot for industrial action and would hope that these members would choose to participate – industrial action is only as strong as the number of eligible workers supporting it. However, there is no obligation to go on strike, even if you are a member of a union that has voted in favour of doing so, and it is up to you if you take part. The RCN will work with the employer to agree exemptions from taking action where there would otherwise be a direct harm to patients or danger to the life or limb of any person. This means that members covering roles that are exempted are not expected to participate. In the event of any such exemptions being necessary the RCN will communicate clearly with those affected and offer all necessary support. 

Exemptions will not be granted for the administrative convenience of managers, and exemptions will not be necessary where managers make their own arrangements for cover, such as deploying staff willing to break the strike.

The RCN will also take steps to ensure that those who would suffer long term financial loss can work normally during industrial action. This includes:

  • Pregnant women who have notified their employer of the expected due date of their baby (unless there is a clear commitment from the employer that the employee will not suffer any detriment)
  • People whose state benefits would be affected by taking part in industrial action
  • Employees in their last year of service who are in a pension scheme

This is to ensure that the time out of work and deduction from your wages caused by participating in strike action wouldn’t have a disproportionately damaging impact on your long-term financial health.

During industrial action or strike action a derogation enables an individual RCN member, a Health and Social Care Trust service (or part of a service) to be granted an exemption from taking part in lawful industrial action.

Derogations are usually given to people or services that are deemed to be critical to ensuring patient safety. It is usually the employer who requests derogations from the local RCN Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. However, the RCN can identify derogations in advance to ensure life preserving services are maintained.

During strike action the RCN will consider giving ‘derogations’ to facilitate the provision of services which the RCN considers to be critical and life preserving.

A derogation (from the RCN) enables an individual RCN member or HSC service (or part of a service) to be granted an exemption from taking part in the lawful industrial action. Even where derogations are given (by the RCN) for services, or part of services, neither the RCN nor the Trust (as employer) can compel an RCN member to work during a period of lawful strike action. It remains the responsibility of Trusts, and not the RCN’s responsibility, to staff wards or services during any period of industrial action, including strike action.

It is only the RCN, as the trade union in dispute with the employer, that can provide derogations to RCN members in order that they may be exempted from participating in RCN strike action. It is not within the Trust’s power, or the authority of its senior managers, to offer derogations to RCN members.

If your service has been allocated a derogation to preserve patient safety your employer should be seeking to staff the service without utilising RCN members as the employer has been notified of RCN members taking lawful strike action. If an employer is unable to do this they may request the local RCN Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee to offer an exemption from participating in the strike to RCN members to facilitate maintaining a level of service which the RCN considers to be critical and life preserving. Neither the RCN nor the Trust (as employer) can compel an RCN member to work during a period of lawful strike action, however, the RCN will supply a badge/sticker for you to wear to highlight you are supporting the industrial action even though a safety exemption applies to your service. If, as part of a derogation or exemption, you work your normal duties/shift, you will be paid your normal pay.

If your specific role has been allocated a derogation (by the RCN) it means your role has been given an exemption from taking part in the strike action. This is to preserve patient safety and facilitate maintaining a level of service which the RCN considers to be critical and life preserving. Neither the RCN nor the Trust (as employer) can compel an RCN member to work during a period of lawful strike action, however, the RCN will supply a badge/sticker for you to wear to highlight you are supporting the industrial action even though a safety exemption applies to your role.  If, as part of a derogation or exemption, you work your normal duties/shift, you will be paid your normal pay.

Employers should be planning for industrial action in a way that reduces the demands on the service. To assist employers in planning for safe services during strike action, the RCN have advised employers that only those services that run on Christmas day will be considered for derogation. The normal Christmas day service/rota should be utilised for services that have been deemed to deliver care on Christmas day.

The 'RCN industrial dispute handbook' states that 'life preserving service' means:

  • emergency intervention for the preservation of life or for the preservation of permanent disability;
  • care required for the therapeutic services without which life would be jeopardised or permanent disability would occur;
  • urgent diagnostic procedures and assessments required to obtain information on potentially life-threatening conditions or conditions that could potentially lead to permanent disability.

Employers will need to identify what staff they require to provide a life preserving service. This will then be discussed with the local RCN Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee and derogations may be agreed with exemptions from industrial action being given to a limited number of RCN members to ensure delivery of life preserving services.

If an employer declares a major incident the employer will initiate their normal major incident plan. The employer will inform the RCN of the situation and the RCN will confirm the suspension of industrial action short of strike or strike action as required. The Trust may contact members of staff to request that they attend their workplace as part of the Trust's normal major incident procedures. RCN members should respond to a major incident situation as they would on any other day - they should attend for deployment as part of the major incident response if they are fit and able to do so.

If during strike action, clinical safety issues arise (without a major incident taking place) the Trust will raise these issues with the local RCN Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee (IDSC). The Trust and the local RCN IDSC will agree the appropriate response including any additional or new exemptions that may be required. This may involve staff being contacted and requested to return to work as part of an exemption from industrial action for the purpose of maintaining clinical safety.

The RCN must comply with legislation relating to notifying employers of the dates of industrial action. The RCN will keep members informed of dates for any industrial action so that there is enough time to prepare. 

Strike action: Notice has been given to the HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland for strike action by RCN members on Wednesday 8 January and Friday 10 January 2020 (from the beginning of the day shift to the beginning of the night shift). This means that for individual RCN members participating in strike action, the time of the start of the strike will be based on the beginning of the normal day shift within their service area. The strike action will end at the normal start time for a night shift within their service area. This means that there will be different start and finish times within a Trust depending on the normal shift times for the specific service/area.

Taking part in a strike or in action short of a strike will almost certainly involve a breach of your contract of employment. You have entered into a legally binding contract with your employer, as part of which you agree to do your work at the agreed times and in the agreed ways, in return for payment. If your employer suddenly stopped paying you this would be going against what the contract legally binds them to do so they would have ‘breached’ that agreement, and similarly if you stop providing the work you have agreed to do for them, you are also in breach. Your employer is entitled to withhold your pay if you stop doing the work you’ve agreed to do. 

The courts have decided that when determining how much pay the employer can withhold as a result of strike action, the correct test is to consider what pay the employee would have received had they been at work. Contact the RCN for support if you think your employer is not doing this properly or deducting an unreasonable amount.

It depends whether the employer is willing to accept ‘partial performance’ of your contractual duties. If the employer will accept partial performance you are entitled to be paid for the work that you do. If the employer does not accept partial performance then you are not entitled to be paid – this is within their legal right to do, and you do not have to work at all if they are refusing to accept partial performance, even if you have been called out on strike for only part of the day.

The RCN has a strike benefit policy.

If you have taken part in authorised strike action and your employer has withheld payment from your salary for that action, you may be eligible to claim strike benefit from the RCN once the action has taken place.

RCN strike benefit is not intended to replace your expected daily earnings but is a supportive contribution to reduce the impact of losing pay due to taking part in strike action.

Strike benefit is currently £45.00 per day. You will be eligible to receive strike benefit if you have completed 2 days of strike action. A day is defined as 7.5 or more hours for full time staff, and for part time staff, the member’s contractual rostered hours for the day strike action is called.

How do I claim strike benefit?

Once the strike action has taken place you can submit a claim for strike benefit by logging into our website and completing the online form.

You must evidence your loss of payment by submitting a wage slip that states a deduction from salary by your employer of 15 hours or more on the basis of strike action. Members who work part time will need to also provide evidence of their contractual rostered working hours for the day(s) in question if less than 15 hours.

Please note that strike benefit is entirely discretionary and the RCN reserves the right to amend or withdraw it in accordance with the strike benefit policy.

Key eligibility criteria:

• You are assigned to work or to provide emergency cover and will not be paid by the employer for all or part of the strike day.
• You are scheduled to work, because of your roster, on a strike day and will have pay deducted by your employer.
• You are not absent on any form of leave during industrial action.
• You are not a student member, unless you are rostered to work as a nursing support worker on the day of strike action.
• You are not retired from all employment. 
• You are up to date with your membership subscriptions and in the correct category.
• You are taking lawful authorised industrial action.

Further information on eligibility for strike benefit is outlined in the RCN’s  strike benefit policy.

No. Strike benefit is not designed to replace your lost earnings, it is a collectively generated contribution to meet your basic needs during a strike when pay is being deducted. As such it doesn’t constitute earnings and so is not subject to tax.

Although taking industrial action is a breach of the contract of employment (see question 12 “Will we get paid while taking industrial action? Why does the ballot paper say if I take industrial action this may amount to a breach of contract?”), it does not break continuous service if you return to work after the strike ends.  However, days of strike action will not count towards the length of service for any relevant qualifying periods, such as maternity pay, redundancy pay or unfair dismissal protection. For these types of rights you usually have to have both a certain length of service with one employer, and that employment needs to be continuous, i.e. no breaks. Strike action wouldn’t count as a break in service, but the amount of days of action you take would be subtracted from the total length of your service.

Pension

Days taken in industrial action are counted as ‘disallowed days’ in NHS pensions and therefore are not counted when calculating pensionable service and pensionable pay. If you take strike action and are not paid, neither you nor your employer will pay pension contributions for that period. Therefore, any unpaid strike days will not count towards your scheme membership.

Maternity, adoption and shared parental leave pay

Rates of pay for types of parental leave is calculated based on earnings during a specified period prior to taking this leave, so unpaid absence due to participating in industrial action may affect this. If you think this may affect you, contact the RCN to seek further advice as you may be exempt. 

The union is legally obliged to provide your employer with statistical information about members taking industrial action but not individual names. You aren’t obliged to tell your employer, but we advise that if asked you should answer truthfully. The RCN intends to work cooperatively with management during any industrial action to ensure that the service can be managed in a way that avoids any potential risk to patient care but allows employees to withdraw their labour and exercise their rights safely. Communicating with your employer honestly may help this.

The law protects employees from being unfairly dismissed for taking part in lawful industrial action from the first day of their employment. Industrial action will only be lawful if there is a trade dispute between workers and their employer, the union has complied with balloting rules and the union has provided the employer with detailed notice about the industrial action at least seven days before it begins in Northern Ireland and 14 days in England, Wales and Scotland. If you are dismissed for taking industrial action you can claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal within 12 weeks of the action beginning. The RCN will offer you full support in the usual way if this affects you, so contact us as soon as possible if it does.

While employees are protected from dismissal, there are no statutory rights protecting staff from disciplinary action or victimisation for taking part in lawful industrial action. Under normal circumstances breaching your contract of employment (see question 9) may result in disciplinary action.  However, this would be counter-productive in relation to authorised and lawful industrial action as there is a clear understanding of why the breach has taken place. It would be very difficult for an employer to initiate disciplinary proceedings against large numbers of staff. It would also be likely to increase tensions and prolong any dispute.

If you are involved in any misconduct separately to the taking of industrial action itself, such as non-peaceful picketing, your employer may initiate disciplinary proceedings against you in the usual way.

To minimise the risk of disciplinary action, before taking part in strike action, it may be worthwhile familiarising yourself with your terms and conditions of employment and any applicable local disciplinary policies, as well as RCN guidance on safe picketing. Should this affect you, the RCN will offer full support in the usual way.

You can join the RCN now at www.rcn.org.uk/join. If you join after the ballot has taken place, you can still participate in the industrial action, even though you didn’t participate in the ballot. You would only be eligible for support offered by the RCN such as strike benefit and individual employment representation if you have become a member prior to the action taking place. It is possible to take part in industrial action when you’re not a union member, as long as the action is lawful, and you would be protected from dismissal. However, it is better to join the RCN now and raise your voice alongside thousands of nursing colleagues.

Caring for the safety of patients is a priority during the stoppage. Our dispute is not with the patients we care for, but with the employer. If you have voted yes, you should be prepared to take industrial action. The RCN will work with the employer to agree exemptions from taking action where there would otherwise be direct harm to patients or danger to the life or limb of any person. This means that members covering exempted roles will not be expected to participate in industrial action. In the event of any such exemptions being necessary the RCN will communicate clearly with those affected and offer all necessary support. However, you cannot be obliged to work and you should indicate to your employer if you will be participating in the lawful RCN industrial action. A strike is most likely to be effective if all the eligible employees take part. If it is possible for the employer to arrange more than emergency cover it may reduce the impact of the strike. You are completely within your rights to decline to work and take part in the strike if you want to and are eligible to.

During industrial action short of strike and strike action the activity of RCN members, including derogations and exemptions from participating in the action, will be directed by the RCN local Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee. As such, once a member has indicated to their manager whether they intend to participate in the industrial action, the manager should report/escalate that information through the Trust management and planning systems without the need to obtain further information from the member. This will help avoid potential difficulties arising between Trust managers and RCN members participating in lawful industrial action.

If you are on annual leave on a day of industrial action, you are free to use this day as you choose and that can include taking part in activities to support the industrial action if you wish. However, you would not be considered to be officially taking part in the action and your employer could not deduct your pay for this day. This means you wouldn’t be entitled to claim any strike benefit from the RCN. As such if you would like to take part in any industrial action that takes place, we would encourage you to postpone your annual leave if you can so that you can participate, or use the day to participate in any local demonstrations that might be taking place.

Workers who are absent on sick leave when industrial action takes place retain their right to statutory sick pay during the period of industrial action. If an employee reports as sick on a day of action, the employer can be expected to make their own judgment as to whether the employee should be regarded as on sick leave or taking part in industrial action. Some employers have tried to introduce special rules about sickness certificates in the event of sick leave during industrial action – if this happens to you, contact the RCN for support, as you shouldn’t be subject to any detrimental treatment as a result of being off sick. If you are too ill to go to work you should not worry about participating in strike action and ensure that you protect your own health.

If you are not scheduled to work on a particular day of action, you would not be deemed to be taking part and you could not be subject to a deduction of wages on this day – and therefore you couldn’t claim strike benefit from the RCN. However, you are fully entitled to join in organised activities on the day.

A picket (or picket line) is where union members in a trade dispute with their employer gather at or near their workplace. The purpose of a picket is to peacefully obtain or communicate information and/or peacefully persuade others not to work, in support of the strike. Generally the picket will be attended by RCN members who would otherwise be at work but are taking part in the strike action.

Attendance at or near your place of work for the purpose of peaceful picketing is a recognised lawful activity in the UK, and management cannot prevent you from doing it.

RCN members, as the RCN is a trade union, have to fulfil the requirements of the legislation relating to picketing and take account of the Department for the Economy Picketing Code of Practice. To help this happen and to facilitate peaceful picketing at workplaces. RCN members who want to take part in a picket during strike action should contact their local RCN Industrial Dispute and Strike Committee (IDSC) to obtain details of their local picket. For details of your local picket, you can contact your local IDSC via Facebook:

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust RCN IDSC

Western Health and Social Care Trust RCN IDSC

Northern Health and Social Care Trust RCN IDSC

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust RCN IDSC

Southern Health and Social Care Trust RCN IDSC

Please log in to see further RCN guidance on strike action and picketing, including expectation of members.

RCN members participating in a lawful and peaceful RCN organised picket will be given some form of identification to indicate that they are picketing (e.g. an arm band, tabard, branded t-shirt etc). Pickets should wear this clothing/item to identify themselves as official pickets. Pickets should follow their employer's local policy on wearing uniforms outwith their workplace.

No, that is incorrect. If your employer says anything to you that doesn’t sound right, contact the RCN to check (see final question for contact details).

Attendance at or near your place of work for the purpose of peaceful picketing is a recognised lawful activity in the UK, and management control cannot prevent you from doing it.

Only if the industrial action relates to a trade dispute involving your own employer. Contact the RCN if you’re not sure.

Unfortunately, we cannot ballot members who work solely as agency staff. If you work both as an agency nurse and are employed in an NHS HSC trust (under Agenda for Change pay and conditions) then we will ballot you as you are an employee of a trust we are in dispute with.

Legally we can only ballot members who are employed by an employer with whom we have the dispute. However we would expect agency workers not to undermine the action by coming in to provide cover for RCN members who are on strike. It is not appropriate for employers to try to undermine the action by bringing in agency workers to cover for striking staff. It can also be unlawful for agencies to supply agency workers to provide cover for staff who are on strike.

We can ballot members who have bank contracts with an NHS HSC trust, but unfortunately cannot ballot members who are employed through NHS Professionals. Legally, we can only ballot members who are employed by an employer we are in dispute with. However we do not expect RCN members who are employed via the bank to come to work to provide cover for staff who are taking strike action or action short of a strike. It is not acceptable for employers to try to undermine the action by using bank staff.

You should adhere to the terms of your placement if you are rostered to ‘work’ during a period of industrial action. It is only lawful to take part in industrial action if you are employed by an employer who is subject to a legitimate trade dispute.

If students also work as Nursing Assistants/ Senior Nursing assistants, they may have a contract of employment with an HSC Trust. These employees may participate in the industrial action in relation to their employment with the trust but this must be separate from their student placement or educational studies.

If you are unsure, contact the RCN for advice – see final question for contact details.

We would hope that you would participate if there is a vote for industrial action, but ultimately it is up to you. Industrial action involves members of a trade union working together to achieve a goal by withdrawing their labour. The labour of its employees is one of an organisation's most valuable assets, so if a large number withdraw their labour for even a day, it can have a major effect on the organisation's finances and reputation - and in many cases if delivered effectively, this will prompt them to reconsider previous positions such as around staffing for safe and effective care, and pay and conditions.

If you are being asked to provide a comment on behalf of the RCN, please direct them to the RCN Northern Ireland press office: www.rcn.org.uk/about-us/press-office. If you are asked to comment as an individual, you may do so if you wish, but don’t feel under pressure to. Please contact the RCN for advice if you would find this useful. It is worth noting that some employers may react badly to employees speaking critically about their place of work and identifying the employer in the media. As such, if you do want to comment, it is advisable to firstly be clear that you are giving your individual view, and to explain why nurses as a wider group are taking industrial action.

Yes. If you are absent from work without pay as a result of legally authorised industrial action this will not curtail your leave status.

The RCN would not wish its members to undermine the lawful industrial action of another trade union or professional association. You should attend work as normal and undertake your normal contractual role. If you are asked to cover other work, this should not be in addition to your normal work.

In summary:

  • Members should not cover the work of colleagues who are undertaking industrial action if that work falls outside of the members normal contractual duties.
  • Members should not undertake any voluntary overtime work to cover the work of those taking industrial action.
  • Members should not undertake any bank or agency work to cover the work of those involved in industrial action.

Please see the full RCN guidance for members in relation to 'Industrial action by other unions'

The RCN has established local Dispute and Strike Committees incorporating local RCN representatives and members. RCN members should approach their local Dispute and Strike Committee and/or local RCN representatives for advice and guidance.

The RCN has also established a local help and advice line for members involved in the industrial action Northern Ireland. The help and advice line will be available, Monday to Friday, to assist with any further questions you may have. The helpline number is: 028 90 687136. The line will open at 8.30am on Friday 29 November and be available Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5pm.  On days of industrial action short of strike and strike days the hours of operation will be 8am to 8pm.

Page last updated - 04/02/2020