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The impact of the Global Climate Strike on the workplace

31 October 2019

On Friday 20 September 2019, millions of employees across the world were invited by climate activist Greta Thunberg to strike to promote immediate action on climate change. The strike represents an extension of the ‘school strikes’ that have been organised by young people over the past few months into the world of work, with the intention that the adverse economic impact caused by the strikes would kick governments into action.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is aiming to reduce emissions by 30 percent from 2000 levels by 2030, but the 2,800 students who recently took part in a strike have declared that this is not enough. Further strikes are therefore becoming more likely as awareness of the issue increases across Japan.

Is a Global Climate Strike lawful?

Whilst many employers may support action against climate change, the strikes, at their best, can reduce workplace productivity, and at their worst, may be unlawful. The first question an employer can ask is ‘Do employees have a ‘right to strike’?’ In the UK, employees do not have this right, and if they withdraw their labour at a time when they are contractually required to work, they are acting unlawfully.

For any industrial action to be lawful, a Trade Union must comply with a series of statutory requirements including notice periods and a balloting process. Informal or short-notice walkouts may not meet the legal requirements if the ballot has not been held in accordance with the rules. So whilst many unions are in support of the Global Climate Strike, they cannot call one as no trade dispute exists and the notice period is too short. If they were to call a strike, the unions would be liable for financial penalties of up to £250,000.

Without any specific authorisation, the strike is therefore an unauthorised absence from work. In the UK, the legal consequence of unauthorised absences is misconduct, which can result in disciplinary action. In every jurisdiction, employers should consider reputational issues before responding – it may be reasonable to withhold pay rather than taking any action, and in making any decision there should always be a consideration of the company’s approach to corporate social responsibility.

Can an employee take annual leave to strike?

In the UK generally, employees are free to take leave when they want, however they should obtain prior approval before doing so. In the context of an informal and short-notice strike, obtaining prior consent may not be possible, or it could place a burden on employers when multiple employees request the same day off. Employers can always reject leave requests if their business would be overly affected, but again should pay due attention to the impact this would have for reputation and social responsibility.

What if employers want to support the Global Climate Strike?

Environmental policy is increasingly becoming important to businesses. In the UK, 32 creative agencies have signed a letter encouraging employees to ‘Create and Strike’ and committed to giving them time off. If so, employers must be aware that employees not striking must not be treated less favourably. Employers may also want to implement or change internal policies, but they must always do so in accordance with the law and in some cases this may require consultation with employees.

It is a risk for employees to strike without permission, and equally a burden for employers. Working with employees and planning internal climate initiatives as an alternative to strikes may be a better a solution.



2019年9月20日(金)、気候変動活動家Greta Thunbergさんの働きかけにより、世界中の数百万人の従業員が、気候変動に対する即時行動を促すストライキを行った。このストライキは、ビジネスの世界に影響を及ぼすよう若者たちが過去数か月にわたり準備した「学校ストライキ」の延長上にあり、同ストライキによる経済的悪影響をきっかけとして政府に行動を起こさせることを意図している。



多くの雇用主は気候変動に対する動きを支持するかもしれないが、ストライキは職場の生産性を低下させる可能性があり、最悪の場合は違法になりかねない。 雇用主が尋ねうる最初の質問は、「従業員には『ストライキ権』があるか?」である。英国では、従業員にストライキ権はなく、契約上労働が義務付けられている場合に働かなければ違法行為になる。


特定の承認を受けていないストライキへの参加は無断欠勤となる。 英国では、無断欠勤は違法行為であり、懲戒処分となる可能性がある。雇用主は同ストライキへの対応にあたり、企業の評判についてよく考えるべきである。懲戒処分よりも給料の支払いを差し控える方が合理的な場合もあり、意思決定する際は常に企業の社会的責任を考慮する必要がある。


英国では一般的に、従業員は自由に休暇を取得できるが、事前に雇用主の承認を得る必要がある。 非公式且つ急なストライキへの参加という理由では、事前承認を得られない場合があり得る。複数の従業員が同じ日に休暇を申請する場合、雇用主に負担をかける可能性があるからだ。 雇用主は、ビジネスが過度に影響を受ける場合には休暇申請をいつでも拒否できるが、その際には企業の評判と社会的責任への影響に十分注意しなければならない。


環境政策は企業にとって益々重要になっている。 英国では、32のクリエイティブ企業(デザイン、テック、アドエージェンシ―他)が従業員によるストライキ実施同意書に署名し、休暇の取得を約束した。 その場合、雇用主はストライキに参加していない従業員が不利に扱われないよう注意する必要がある。 雇用主は、内部規定に従うことも変更することもできるが、常に法律は遵守しなければならず、従業員との協議が求められる場合もある。



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