06 May 2016

The Trade Union Act 2016

The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent on 4 May 2016 and became the Trade Union Act 2016.  At the time of writing the commencement date has not been announced but the Act will be brought into force by a statutory instrument.

The key provisions of the Act are as follows:

  • There must be at least 50% of the union's membership turning out to vote, for industrial action to be passed.
  • An additional threshold requirement that 40% of those eligible to vote  must vote in favour of action, in certain important public services, including border security, education, fire sector, health, and the nuclear sector.
  • New members must actively opt-in if they wish part of their subscription to be placed into the union's political fund.
  • Public sector employers and some private sector employers (those with functions of a public nature and mainly public funded) can still make check-off deductions but only if the worker is allowed to pay subscriptions by other means (such as direct debit) and the union makes payments towards the employers' costs for the deductions.
  • A clear description of the type of industrial action proposed must be set out on the ballot paper so that all union members are clear about what they are voting for.
  • A six-month time limit for action to take place (increased to 9 months by agreement between the employer and the union).
  • Giving more powers to the Certification Officer, to ensure that new and existing rules are followed.
  • Unions will be required to appoint an identifiable supervisor when engaged in picketing.
  • Doubling the notice period for industrial action to 14 days, unless the employer agrees to 7.

The Government's proposed repeal of the current prohibition on agencies supplying, and employers hiring, agency workers during industrial action has been left out of the Act.

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