Changes to striking requirements and Trade Union membership have now been passed under the Trade Union Act. Read on to understand the changes and how they affect employers.

The Trade Union Act has received royal assent. The commencement date for the changes is not yet known. The start date will communicated in due course by a statutory instrument.

The main issues are:-

  • a requirement for at least 50% turnout in votes for industrial action;
  • in certain public services (including health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors), an additional requirement must be met. There must be at least 40% support from all members eligible to vote for the action to be legal;
  • the setting of a 6 month time limit for industrial action to be taken from the ballot. This can be increased to 9 months with the employer’s agreement;
  • a requirement on the union to provide at least 14 days notice of the industrial action (7 days if the employer is agreeable);
  • a requirement that a clearer description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action is set out by the union on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear as to what they are voting for;
  • the creation of a transparent process for trade union subscriptions which will allow new members to make an active choice as to whether to pay into political funds;
  • a requirement that the Government commission an independent review to examine possible methods of electronic balloting. However, the Act does not provide for any definite commitment to its introduction.

The Government dropped plans for a blanket prohibition on “check-off’, under which an employer deducts trade union subscriptions from wages on the unions” behalf, in the public sector. It instead allows check-off to continue if the union meets the administration cost.

The Act also fails to mention the much publicised intention to repeal the ban on the use of agency workers to backfill for striking workers. It is likely that such provisions will be included in other secondary legislation, but there has been no indication on the likely timing of this.

If you would like to discuss any issues raised in this article, we have specific employment law expertise in advising in this area. For further advice, please contact Angela Gorton.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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