A Trade Union is a membership-based organisation mainly made up of workers. One of its main objectives must include the regulation of relations between workers and employers or employers’ associations. An employers’ association is a body of employers, generally from the same sector of the economy, whose principal purposes include the regulation of relations between employers in that sector and workers or trade unions. Trade unions have duties and obligations under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TURLCA 1992) and case law.
Changes brought by the Trade Union Act 2016
The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent on 4th May 2016 to become the Trade Union Act 2016. It commenced on 1st March 2017.
The Act amends the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation Act) Act 1992 (TULRCA 1992)as follows:
- Sections 2 and 3 set out the requirements for minimum ballot thresholds – a 50% turnout in all industrial action ballots, and a 40% support requirement in favour of industrial action for specified important public services in six sectors.
- Section 4 requires an independent review on the delivery of secure methods of electronic balloting in relation to industrial action ballots and for the Secretary of State to publish a response to the review. It also provides for a piloting scheme. Section 4 does not amend legislation but introduces a provision which requires the Secretary of State to commission an independent review into industrial action ballots.
- Sections 5, 6 and 7 set out information requirements relating to industrial action: the information that must be included in the ballot paper; and information to be given to union members and to the Certification Officer following a ballot.
- Sections 8 and 9 specify the arrangements for the timing and duration of industrial action. Section 8 requires two weeks’ notice of any action to be given to an employer unless the union and the employer mutually agree to 7 days’ notice. Section 9 provides that a ballot mandate for industrial action expires after six months or after nine months where there is a mutual agreement between the employer and the union.
- Section 10 sets out requirements on unions for the supervision of picketing.
- Sections 11 and 12 concern political funds. Section 11 provides that persons who join a trade union after commencement shall be required to make an active choice before contributing to a union’s political fund. Section 12 places requirements on unions to include details of expenditure from political funds in the union’s annual return to the Certification Officer;
- Sections 13 and 14 create regulation-making powers in respect of paid time off for trade union duties and activities in the public sector;
- Section 15 restricts the deduction of union subscriptions (“check off”) from wages by relevant public sector employers where:-
- workers do not have the option to pay subscriptions through other means and;
- arrangements have not been made for a union to make reasonable payments to the employer for the making of those deductions.
- there is a regulation making power to specify who is a relevant public sector employer;
Register of members
1. A trade union has to keep a register of its members’ names and addresses, with certain exceptions – section 24 TULRCA 1992
- The register may be electronic form, and does not have to be kept in one place.
- Unions are allowed to divide the register into different geographical areas, each of which is maintained separately within that branch. The responsibility still remains the responsibility of the Union as whole to keep the register, and not just its branches. –
- The members’ register has to be kept up to date. – P v NASUWT 
2. A trade union must give an independent scrutineer access to the members’ register every time there is a ballot about;
- Leadership elections
- A proposed political resolution
- Mergers – section 24 TULRCA 1992
- 3. The independent people who distribute voting papers and count the votes are also allowed access to information in the register.
4. The union must impose a duty of confidentiality on the independent scrutineer and independent people during this period.
5. A new trade union does not have to keep a register of members until one year after it is formed – section 43 TULRCA 1992
6. A trade union that is mainly made up of affiliated organisations or representatives of such organisations is exempt from keeping a register of members if;
- it has no individual members
- it has only merchant seamen members who are mostly ordinarily resident outside the UK – section 118 (6) TULRCA 1992
7. A union member can apply to the Certification Officer (), or a court for a declaration that the union has not complied with its duty to maintain an accurate and up-to-date register of members, or has not kept the register confidential.
8. The Certification Officer can also make an enforcement order, for the union to correct the situation – sections 25 to 26 TULRCA 1992