Industrial Relations Advice
For UK Employers

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Trade Union law is a distinct area of law to employment law, with a significant amount of legislation governing trade unions, their rights and obligations, the relationship with employers and the right to recognition industrial action and much more.   Whilst distinct, the two often overlap both in terms of employee rights and also managing the workforce.

Recognising that Trade Union law is a distinct and significant area of law is important. Do not assume an employment law adviser will have the expertise to advise on matters relating to the trade union. It is important when you, as an employer, need advice on matters relating to a trade union that you speak with labour law specialists. That is where AfterAthena’s specialist labour law team can assist, having experience of working with employers over a range of labour law issues including:-

Support services

  • Trade union recognition and collective agreements
  • Formal claims for trade union recognition to the Central Arbitration Committee
  • Collective bargaining and the Trade Unions rights and employers obligations
  • Failures to agree
  • Industrial action including strike action
  • Rights of members and trade union representatives
  • Changing collectively agreed terms
Employment solicitor advising a UK employer

Common queries about our Industrial Relations support, answered by our Trade Union Law experts include:

  • Do I have to recognise a trade union?

    A trade union can only force recognition on an employer if, within the proposed bargaining unit (ie hourly paid production staff), they union has at least 10% membership within that bargaining unit and, is likely to have the majority support of the bargaining unit for recognition.

    Even if the trade union has the minimum 10% threshold, its critical you take advice if your desired outcome is to try to avoid recognition. There will be issues around what t he proposed bargaining unit is and whether that is reasonable/appropriate, as well as whether the majority of staff support recognition. Further, if there is a real chance the trade union would succeed in an application for statutory recognition, there are advantages to agreeing voluntary recognition instead.

  • What is a recognition agreement?

    A recognition agreement simply sets out the terms upon which the trade union (s) is recognised by the employer including the intention of the parties, the spirit of the agreement, what matters are to be subject to information consultation or negotiation, the number of trade union representatives permitted, the facilities for the trade union, the forum for consultation (or a JCC) and a dispute resolution process. A recognition agreement maybe voluntary, semi-voluntary or statutory. Many recognition agreements are not legally enforceable unless it is expressly stated to be so in the agreement. It is important an employer takes advice when negotiating terms of recognition.

  • What is a collective agreement?

    These are often known as procedural agreements or collective agreements. They will cover what is usually covered in a recognition agreement, but will have sections that also govern procedures and/o policies and /or terms and conditions of employment. Where the collective agreement governs terms and conditions of employment, these terms will be incorporated into the individual employee contracts for all staff within the bargaining unit. Usually the employment contract will specifically reference the collective agreement in place.

  • The Trade Union are threatening a ballot for strike action – what should I do?

    Take immediately advice. Acting expeditiously is key. You cannot stop industrial action where the organising a union if they have the numbers to force statutory recognition.

  • Is picketing lawful?

    Yes, along as it is connected to a trade dispute, carried out at or near the place of work and carried out peacefully balloting requirements have been met (which must be scrutinised carefully), so ongoing discussions/negotiation with the Union is important, but so to is communicating directly with affected staff and preparing for the worst.

  • Can I derecognise a Trade Union?

    Yes. We would need to assess the nature of the recognition agreement and the actual (or perceived) membership numbers within the bargaining unit. It is pointless derecognising a trade union. There is a code of practice on lawful picketing which must be followed. Where it isn’t, then an employer can take action.

Who you'll be working with

Oliver McCann

Employment Law Partner

Emma Saunders

Legal Director

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