The government’s plans to give employers powers to force striking workers back to work is akin to modern slavery, legal experts told MPs.

Last month, business secretary Grant Shapps unveiled plans that would require unions to maintain “minimum service levels” in fire and rescue, transport, health and education sectors during strikes.

The bill proposes to allow employers to issue so-called work notices to a proportion of striking workers that require them to return to work. Workers that do not comply with the notices would lose their protections from unfair dismissal.

Legal scholars warned the cross-party MPs on the Joint Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday that the measure could breach Article Four of the Human Rights Act, which prohibits forced labour.

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