The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent
on 4th May 2016 to become the Trade Union Act 2016. It does not have a commencement date and will be brought into force later by a statutory instrument.
The Act imposes a 50% turnout requirement in all ballots for industrial action. In addition, industrial action in ‘important public services’ will require the support of at least 40% of all those eligible to vote. Six sectors are identified as ‘important public services’ – health, education of those under 17, fire, transport, nuclear decommissioning and border security. Detailed provisions will be supplied in secondary legislation.
The Act regulates the balloting process by requiring more detailed descriptions of the trade dispute and proposed action on the ballot paper, and imposing a six-month time limit on the validity of each ballot, although this can be increased to nine months with the employer’s agreement.
The Act also requires the Government to commission an independent review of possible methods of electronic balloting, although it does not include any concrete commitment to its introduction.
NOTICE OF STRIKE ACTION
Unions will be required to provide 14 days’ notice of any strike action (or seven days’ notice, if the employer agrees to this).
BAN ON USE OF AGENCY WORKERS DURING STRIKES
Provisions to repeal the ban on the use of agency workers to fill in for striking workers are not in the Act; they were due to be introduced in secondary legislation, but there has been no update on when this will be.
UNION SUBS.& POLITICAL FUNDS
The process for payment of trade union subscriptions will be amended, with the Act introducing a requirement for new union members to be offered an active choice of whether to pay into a union’s political fund and provided with information on opting out from such contributions on an annual basis.
For Employers in the public sector (and some private sector Employers that provide public services), ‘check-off’ (i.e. the deduction of trade union membership subscriptions via payroll) will only be permitted if the union contributes to the cost of administering the system.
A requirement has been introduced for Employers in the public sector (and some private sector Employers that provide public services) to publish information on ‘facility time’, such as the amount spent on paid time off for union duties and activities and the amount of time taken up by those duties and activities. Secondary legislation will identify which Employers fall into this requirement and what information they will be required to publish. The Act also provides for the possibility of further regulations that would allow Ministers to impose caps on facility time at a particular Employer if the amount and cost of facility time is a cause for concern.
The Act gives statutory force to certain parts of the current Code of Practice on Picketing , such as the requirement to appoint a picket supervisor . It also introduces new powers for the Certification Officer to investigate and take enforcement action where a union breaches its statutory duties.