Industrial action in a hybrid working environment

Good afternoon all

I'm researching on behalf of my organisation how other organisations have managed Industrial Action within Hybrid Working environments, but am currently struggling to find any such information.

I would be grateful if anyone could share their experience of managing industrial action within a hybrid working environment, or alternatively share any suitable resources which may prove beneficial. 

Specifically, we are looking at instances of non-union staff choosing to work from home specifically on strike days in order to avoid crossing a picket, though welcome any and all insights in general.

Grateful of any feedback and insights.

Many thanks,


  • Hi Sion, I’ve not come across this yet but it would be interesting to hear from others. Kind regards, Nick
  • It is interesting question, in an age of flexible working, what is the modern version of a picket line?
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    14 May, 2024 13:35

    Interesting question. I suppose - and generalising - unionised work is more likely to 'in the workplace' and sometimes unions may not approve of hybrid working. Discuss...

    Just to get a discussion going ;)

  • A really interesting question. I work from home pretty much permanently as do a lot of my colleagues (although not contractual).

    Our TU's are talking about calling strike action again this year (public sector) and last time they targeted the front line worker in schools etc to walk out as they knew we are all mostly working from home so us going on strike would have very little impact.

    However, not sure as an organisation if we've given any thought to what to do if all-out action is called. Previously, I would have said we'd be re-called back to the office on a strike day (if we chose to cross a picket line). But now our building isn't big enough for us all to have to come in so we couldn't come in for a strike day (if we wanted too) as they'd be nowhere for us to sit (we've closed so many other buildings and leased areas of the building to other organisations so we have very limited capacity now).
  • I'm not entirely sure what the question is, here.

    Is it that non-union staff don't want to be seen to cross the picket and so are asking to work from home and, if so, whether this should be allowed? Or is it that non-union staff are looking at using WFH as a form of working to rule in sympathy with union colleagues?

    To some extent, the more interesting question - although not really one for the CIPD to answer - is how union members who work remotely can show solidarity with picketing colleagues, and I'm looking forward to seeing the expansion of "virtual pickets" in which striking staff use social media sites to promote their industrial action digitally by creating posts on sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn and Facebook and use hashtags, upvotes, comments etc to achieve digital visibility. I saw the early seeds of this in the university lecturer strikes in 2023, but a more organised and coordinated union could definitely do a better job.

    Companies with high-profile industrial action should be alert to the risks of malicious solidarity action on the part of left-leaning hacktivist collectives, such as Anonymous, which could include DDOS attacks on company websites or the hacking of social media accounts to post damaging material.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thanks Robey.

    It would apply to both scenarios to be honest.

    What is (or would be) common practice in a hybrid working environment when industrial action takes place, would there be a preference as Elaine noted to re-call non-striking staff to the office for this period, where practical and possible, or would any Hybrid Working practices continue as normal?

    Where continuing to work hybrid as normal, what procedures and processes is (or would be) in place to manage such instances during a period of industrial action?
  • In reply to Sion:

    We have a set of FAQs that include references to hybrid working

    Q I don’t want to cross the picket line, but I do want to work on strike days. As many staff continue to work partly from home can I choose to work from home on a strike day?
    A If you are expected to work on campus on a strike day as part of your current working pattern, we would expect you to continue to do so and to come to campus as normal. If you have a particular concern, please discuss this with your line manager ahead of the strike days. Managers should not seek to insist on on-campus working for those who are currently scheduled to be working from home on any of the strike days.

    Q I am currently working from home / on a hybrid working pattern/ due to be off campus at a conference/external meeting/secondment to another organisation. What should I do?
    A If you are working away from campus for any reason on a strike day you should contact your line manager or another manager to advise them of your absence if you are taking strike action, or to advise them that you will be working as normal. Your manager may also contact you to confirm your whereabouts. If you are not contactable via HWU systems such as Teams and your Line Manager is not aware of the reason for your absence, it may be assumed that you are taking part in the strike and salary deductions made.

    Hybrid or not, union colleagues want and continue to have a physical picket line.
  • I am not advocating for this but I know of one organisation that said its hybrid / wfh arrangements on strike days were suspended and employees who were not on strike were required to attend work. The organisation's rationale was that they needed to have accurate records of who was on strike and who was not, and this would be better facilitated by on-site working. Secondly, this reduced the risk of people who were not members taking effectively unofficial or sympathetic action (such as other union members were more than one was recognised) without a ballot. I think this is a very organisation specific decision and needs to be balanced by the potential to damage employee relations more broadly.