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Labour disputes statistics cover stoppages of work in the UK caused by labour disputes between employers and workers directly involved and other workers (indirectly affected by strike action) in relation to the terms and conditions of employment.


Labour Disputes
Department: Office for National Statistics
Statistics on UK breakdown of labour disputes covering: number of working days lost and number of stoppages. The statistics relate to both 'strikes' and 'lockouts'.
Labour Market Statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
Employment, unemployment, economic inactivity, claimant count, average earnings, labour productivity, vacancies and labour disputes statistics.
Trade Union Membership
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
Provides annual estimates of trade union membership from the Labour Force Survey for both employees and all workers.

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The Labour Disputes Survey collects information on the number of working days lost and workers involved in strike action in the UK on a monthly basis. The survey is different to most other business surveys conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in that it is conducted on a voluntary basis and is effectively a census ‘selected’ from a list of all known strikes in the period.

The survey tries to record all strike action that has taken place, except for those disputes involving fewer than ten workers or lasting less than half a day. Disputes are picked up from reports in the mainstream media and newspapers, with news and union websites also being a primary source of information. Where possible, the data are collected directly from the employer involved in the dispute. There are also centralised returns from large companies, public bodies and trade unions.

The key labour disputes monthly outputs are published on the National Statistics website and in the Labour Market Statistical Bulletin. A further breakdown of the data is also available each month in Economic & Labour Market Review (ELMR). In addition, ELMR publishes an in-depth analysis of the previous years labour disputes data each June and a comparison of UK data with that from other European Union and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries each April.

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Technical Data

The Labour Disputes Survey collects data on the number of working days lost and the number of workers involved in strike action from all UK companies who have been involved in strike action. However, lack of press coverage generally means that small disputes are not always included.

Data from the Labour Disputes Survey are used by a wide range of users, both internal and external customers. The figures are used by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to provide ministers with a monthly brief on labour disputes and also by HM Treasury and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

Outside government, the data attract interest from researchers, local authorities, development corporations, academics and private industry. In accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 'Resolution on Strikes and Lockouts: 1993', the UK provides the ILO with data covering working days lost, number of workers involved and the number of stoppages by industry for each calendar year.

The Labour Disputes Survey, on a voluntary basis, requests the minimum amount of detail to produce the analyses required by users. The overwhelming majority of firms rarely experience labour disputes stoppages and consequently do not have formal mechanisms for recording the data.

Information is not available on the completeness of coverage so, consequently, it is not known what proportion of all stoppages are included in the statistics. Data are not collected for those disputes involving fewer that 10 workers or lasting less than half a day. However, data are collected if 100 working days are lost due to a single dispute, regardless of the amount of workers involved.

The Labour Disputes Monthly Provisional Results are published six weeks after the reference period and the previous period’s data are revised if necessary. A further (final) revision is also conducted when the annual results are published in March if additional data have been made available. Revisions are generally very small.

The time lag between publication and the reference period to which the data refer are as follows:

  • monthly results release: six weeks after the reference period

  • annual results release: 12 weeks after the reference period

  • annual in-depth analysis: six months after the reference period

The Labour Disputes Survey covers all UK industry using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). Data for 1995 to 2002 have been classified according to SIC 92 and data from 2003 have been classified according to SIC 2003. The broad industrial classifications used by the Labour Disputes Survey however, have meant this change in classification had minimal impact on the outputs.

Data on UK labour disputes are held going back as far as 1891. Analysis can be provided on various combinations, for example, by industry groups, by Standard Statistical Region from 1958 to 1995, by Government Office Region (GOR) from 1996 and by cause (from 1959). Data are also published on a public/private split, with data available back to 1996.

Further technical information for labour disputes can be found in the labour disputes summary quality report.

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  • Stoppages

    The statistics cover stoppages of work in progress in the UK during a year caused by labour disputes between employers and workers, or between workers and other workers, connected with the terms and conditions of employment. These include ‘lock-outs’ by employers and ‘unlawful’ or ‘unofficial’ strikes. The statistics exclude disputes that do not result in a stoppage of work, for example, work-to-rules and go-slows.

  • Workers Involved

    The figures for workers involved are for workers both directly and indirectly involved at the establishment where the dispute occurred. Workers indirectly involved are those who are not themselves parties to the dispute but are laid off because of the dispute. Workers involved in more than one stoppage during the year are counted in the statistics for each stoppage in which they take part. Part-time workers are counted as whole units.

  • Working Days Lost

    Working days lost are defined as the number of days not worked by people involved in a dispute at their place of work. In measuring the number of working days lost, account is taken only of the time lost in the basic working week. Overtime work is excluded, as is weekend working where it is not regular practice.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Labour Market Statistics Team

Email: labour.market@ons.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 456720

Labour Market Statistics Team Office for National Statistics Government Buildings Cardiff Road Newport NP10 8XG

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