Under the new legislation, announced yesterday (6 November), train operators will be required to run 40% of their normal timetable as normal on strike days.
Additionally, in the case of strikes that affect rail infrastructure services, certain ‘priority routes’ must remain open, although the Government is yet to say which journeys will be covered.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the plans, which will also impact ambulance and border security staff, will ‘stop unions de-railing Christmas for millions of people’.
“This legislation will ensure more people will be able to travel to see their friends and family and get the emergency care they need,” he added.
The ongoing industrial action on the railways, which started in June last year, has had a major impact on the hospitality sector, with UKHospitality previously estimating that the strikes have so far cost the sector in the region £3.5bn.
It has led to some businesses, including steakhouse group Hawksmoor, launching meal deals on strike days to encourage diners out.
Back in September, the trade body called on the Government, rail unions and companies to resolve the ongoing train strikes as a matter of urgency.
“While [it] is absolutely right to point out that sectors acutely affected by rail strikes, like hospitality, are properly considered and protected by future legislation, the real priority needs to be reaching a resolution to the current dispute,” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said at the time.
“This is especially important for hospitality, as we approach the busy Christmas period, the revenues of which are often crucial to help venues through the fallow period of January to March.
“Without an urgent end to this dispute, the £3.5bn that hospitality has lost in sales will only continue to grow and that is not good for the thousands of hospitality businesses and the millions of people they employ.”
Under the new law, employers will be able to issue work notices to identify employees who are reasonably required to work to ensure minimum service levels are met when a strike is called.
Unions will be required to take reasonable steps and ensure their members who are identified with a work notice comply and if a union fails to do this, they will lose their legal protection from damages claims.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the minimum service level regulations will allow the rail industry to plan ahead to reduce disruption for passengers while ensuring workers can still exercise their ability to strike.
“An improved service on strike days will allow passengers to continue with their day-to-day lives and support businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector,” he added.