March 30, 2016

How would the Trade Union Bill affect employers?

With the Government facing calls to back down on key elements of their Trade Union crackdown, many employers are curious as to how the proposed changes in the law would affect them.

As part of its election manifesto, the Government promised it would bring an end to “disruptive and undemocratic strike action”. To achieve this it has published the Trade Union Bill.

This Bill will have significant changes which impact on industrial action:

50% turnout

There will be a requirement for at least 50% turnout in all industrial action ballots.

In addition, if it is an important public service then at least 40% of those entitled to vote must have voted in favour of industrial action.

Notice of industrial action

Previously, only 7 days’ notice of industrial action was required to be given to employers.

However, the new Bill will now require 14 days’ notice, this will give employers further time to make necessary arrangements.

Valid period of ballot

Initially, the Government proposed that any ballot for industrial action would only be valid for a period of 4 months from the date of the ballot.

However, as the bill is being passed through the House of Lords it has recently agreed to amend this to 6 months.

This is intended to provide a clarity as to whether industrial action is still covered by a ballot or the ballot is “stale” and no longer represents employees’ views on industrial action.

Information requirement on ballot paper

The Bill will require more detail as to the issues in dispute, the specific type of industrial action and the period in which the action will be taken. This is intended to provide clarity to employees as to what the industrial dispute is about and the intended action.

Contribution to political funds

Currently, unless they expressly opt out, a union’s members automatically contribute to its political fund through their membership fees.

The Bill will reverse this by providing that members must make an active decision to opt in, by way of a written notice to the union, in order for the union to be able to collect monies from those members for the political fund.

Hiring agency staff to cover industrial action

In conjunction with the bill, the Government is also seeking to remove Regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003.

This removal will allow employers to hire agency workers to provide cover during strike periods. This is intended to allow businesses to operate to some extent during strike action.

The Trade Union Bill is currently at the Report Stage at the House of Lords with a second day of debate scheduled for 19 April 2016. We will keep you updated as to its progress and the eventual passing of the bill as law.

For more information about upcoming legislation that could affect employers, download our Free Employment Law Guide.


By Ian Rimmer

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