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On 4 May 2016, The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent and became the Trade Union Act 2016. The Act introduces a number of new measures which will make it harder for employees to bring industrial action.

Employment Minister Nick Boles said of measures in the Act:

“These changes will ensure people are only ever disrupted by industrial action when it is supported by a reasonable proportion of union members.”

The Act’s introduction is not without controversy and has been met with strong resistance by the unions. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“While we are pleased to have secured significant changes to the Trade Union Bill, it still remains a very bad and divisive bill. The history books will show that the government’s first major act of this Parliament has been to attack the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty. This legislation, even in its amended form, poses a serious threat to good industrial relations and is completely unnecessary.”

The key provisions of the Act are:

  • in order for industrial action to take place there must be a ballot turnout of at least 50%
  • in some important public services, including in the health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors, an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all eligible members must be met for action to be legal
  • notice of industrial action to the employer is doubling to fourteen days (unless the employer agrees to seven days’ notice)
  •  setting a 6 month time limit (which can be increased to 9 months if the union and employer agree) for industrial action so that mandates are always recent
  • requiring a clearer description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear what they are voting for
  • creating a transparent process for trade union subscriptions that allows new members to make an active choice of paying into political funds
  • giving more powers to the Certification Officer to ensure new and existing rules are followed by unions with the ability to investigate and take enforcement action against trade unions for breaches of their statutory duties
  • ensuring that payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions are only administered where the cost is not funded by the public

The Government have yet to set a date for implementation. A phased implementation is expected to commence this year with some changes to be delayed until 2017.

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If you would like to find out more about the Trade Union Act please contact Tom Evans on 0151 230 1217 or tom.evans@dtmlegal.com for more information.

 

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