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Care Quality Commission industrial action FAQs

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about industrial action for Care Quality Commission (CQC) staff.

The RCN, together with four other trade unions recognised by CQC, submitted a joint pay claim in July 2022. Our claim was for a pay award that matched RPI inflation + 5%.

CQC rejected our pay claim and instead imposed a pay award in December 2022. This imposed pay award was 2.75% for Grade A staff, 3% for Grade B & C staff and 3.75% for Grades D to F staff.

CQC’s pay award is a realterms pay cut. The award is not acceptable, and we are therefore in dispute over pay. The RCN conducted a statutory ballot and members votes have given a clear mandate for industrial action.

Please remember this pay award will not be taken away from you if you take part in industrial action. This dispute is about trying to secure a better pay settlement in addition to the imposed pay award.

The dispute also reflects our concerns that the fall in members’ pay in real terms over the last decade is having dire consequences for recruitment and retention, which is putting at risk the safety of those who use health and social care services.


CQC budgeted for a more generous pay award, but the Government’s civil service pay restrictions prevented them from being able to deliver this. Despite being an almost fully self-funded organisation, CQC is still subject to civil service pay restrictions. We believe that CQC should have been more forceful and proactive in trying to secure the freedom to negotiate their own pay awards directly with the trade unions.

By taking part in strike action and action short of strike, you can send a clear message to CQC and the Government that you deserve a better pay award.

Failure to give staff a meaningful pay rise actively endangers all those who use health and social care services because staff are leaving CQC due to poor pay and CQC cannot recruit new staff.

Industrial action involves members of a trade union coming together to achieve a goal, such as securing a pay rise. You might do this by stopping work (strike action) or by working only the minimum contractual requirements of your role (action short of a strike). The industrial action that RCN members will now take, is action short of strike.

There are strict rules that trade unions must comply with for industrial action to be lawful.

There must be a trade dispute between workers and their employers.

There must have been a postal ballot.

The ballot must have achieved the turnout threshold i.e. at least 50% of eligible members must have voted, and the majority of those voting must have voted in favour of industrial action.

The RCN met the 50% threshold in our industrial action ballot.

Industrial action short of a strike can come in a variety of forms. This is also known as 'working to rule'. Action short of a strike could include doing no more than the minimum required by the terms and conditions of your employment. You would start and finish your working day at your contractual start and finish times, you would take all your contractual breaks, you would not work extra hours or overtime and you would not undertake any duties outside your job description.

Our dispute notice that we have submitted to the employer contains the following description:

“Action short of a strike will be work-to-rule and would include our members working their contracted hours, working their contracted days, not working extra hours or overtime, not undertaking tasks out with their job role or job description and taking all statutory and contractual breaks.”

The RCN is instructing its CQC members to commence continuous action short of strike from 17th April

Continuous industrial action is when two or more days of action occur consecutively with no working days in between. Action short of strike for RCN members, will be continuous. There is currently no end date planned. However, it is important to remember that our mandate for industrial action will only last for six months, so continuous action may only be taken until September 2023.

Discontinuous industrial action is when the days are not consecutive. For example, if three separate strike days were spread over a month, there would be working days between the three strike days.

The law requires any industrial action to take place within six months of the statutory ballot closing. The RCN will commence continuous action short of strike on 17th April and our action coincides with that of other unions (Unison, Prospect and Unite)

No. You can only take industrial action if you would be at work on the days of industrial action. However, you can support your colleagues and the campaign in other ways. For example, post about industrial action on social media and speak to colleagues about joining a trade union.

If you are planning, or have already booked, annual leave during the period of action short of strike you should book and take your leave as you would normally. Action short of strike is a work-to-rule and will include RCN members working their contracted hours, working their contracted days, not working extra hours or overtime, not undertaking tasks out with their job role or job description and taking all statutory and contractual breaks.

Yes, you will be able to take part in industrial action if you are scheduled to be at work on a day when industrial action is called.

Agency workers should not provide cover for workers taking industrial action. If you are an agency worker allocated to work on a day of industrial action, you should not work that shift or extra hours.

Staff who are not taking part in industrial action should not carry out the duties of colleagues who are.


The RCN will inform CQC of the number of members eligible to take industrial action, which roles they are in, what type of industrial action members will be taking (action short of strike), and when, but we will not give CQC your individual name.

Management may send out emails asking that you declare in advance whether you will be taking industrial action. Some managers may even go as far as demanding that you tell them if you’ll be taking industrial action. This can have the effect of misleading and intimidating members and it is important to remember that youdo not have to answer this question in advance of taking industrial action.

CQC colleagues that are not trade union members can take part in lawful, official industrial action.

However, our strong recommendation is that if you are not in a union, you should join one so that you have the protection of a union before you take part in industrial action. Details on how to join the RCN can be found here.

Yes. You should be paid in accordance with your contract of employment whilst taking action short of strike.

No. Taking industrial action short of strike does not break continuous employment.

If you are in the middle of a phone call with the public (or another task that cannot reasonably wait until your next working day) when you come to the end of a shift, then please complete the task as soon as you possibly can and if necessary email for a call-back to be arranged. If this takes you beyond your contracted hours, please log your additional time on Cygnum and take this time back as TOIL at the earliest opportunity.

If you work defined shift patterns you can also use a clear out of office message, such as ‘my working hours are 9am to 5pm. If you contact me after that time I will be in touch when I am next back at work’.

If you do not work defined shift patterns and have more autonomy over your working time, then you should be recording your working times accurately on Cygnum and managing your time to ensure that you don’t work above your contracted hours (e.g. more than 37 hours a week).

If it is completely unavoidable that you work over and above your contracted hours, then record this on Cygnum and take back your TOIL as soon as possible. Do not let it build up and do not fail to take it back.

Action short of strike will only have the necessary impact if all members participate. If you work above your contracted hours, then action short will have limited effect and will lessen our ability to secure an improved pay offer.

The joint trade unions will be making it clear to CQC that all our members will be expected to work their contracted hours and record their time accurately on Cygnum. We recognise that there may be limited instances where staff may still have to work above their contracted hours. As highlighted above, if anyone unavoidably accrues any TOIL we will be instructing members to take it back at the earliest possible opportunity in line with the TOIL policy.

If you are subject to complaints from your manager that you are not achieving your work targets because you are only working to your contracted hours and job description, then please let your trade union reps know at the earliest opportunity. If you have to work more than your contracted hours to achieve your targets then those targets are not reasonable or appropriate.

We know that many CQC staff regularly work more than their contracted hours in order to help the organisation hit its targets and action short of strike will demonstrate just how much CQC relies on the goodwill of staff to function effectively.

We will also be holding regular union meetings throughout the dispute to provide encouragement and support for members and to remind everyone of the collective nature of what we are doing.

If you feel like taking part in our action short of strike is having little impact on the organisation, then please contact your RCN rep or full-time officer. We are always open to ideas about how we might make this industrial action as effective as possible.

But please be assured that whatever action you are taking, however small you might feel it is, it will have an impact because you are part of a collective and every action counts