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The Trade Union Act 2016: What is being implemented in March 2017?

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Following the general election in May 2015 it was announced that the Conservative government would reform the law around trade union activity and industrial action to “bring an end to disruptive and undemocratic strike action”. 

The Trade Union Act 2016 (TUA) which received royal assent on 4 May 2016, is now being implemented in phases. Some of the main provisions which came into force on 1 March 2017 are:

  • For a strike ballot to be valid, a minimum of 50% of trade union members entitled to vote must vote for the ballot and a simple majority must vote in favour of industrial action.
  • In addition to the above 50% threshold, where the majority of members who vote work within public services (health, education, transport, fire, border security and nuclear decommissioning) 40% of members who are entitled to vote, must vote in favour. There must also be a simple majority.
  • Ballot papers must include a summary of the industrial action, giving union members a clearer idea of what they are voting for.
  • Following the ballot, details of the results of the ballot and whether the above thresholds have been met must be provided to all members entitled to vote. 
  • Employers must be given a minimum of 14 days’ notice of industrial action (currently 7 days).
  • An increased time limit of 6 months from the ballot to bring industrial action (9 months if the employers agrees this). After 6 months a fresh ballot will be required. The current time limit is 4 weeks unless the employer agrees to extend it to 8 weeks.
  • New additional requirements around union supervision of picketing e.g. appointing a picket supervisor. 
  • Broader sanctions and investigating powers available to Certification Officers where trade unions breach their legal duties.
  • New requirements for the publication of information on facility time for public sector employees, such as paid time off for trade union duties and activities.
  • Restrictions on public sector employers making deductions from wages for trade union subscriptions unless: the workers are able to pay by other means and the trade union makes ‘reasonable payments’ to the employer for making the deductions.  
  • New trade union members will be able to choose whether to contribute to the unions political fund instead of having to actively opt-out.
  • Where trade union expenditure of political funds exceeds £2,000, more detailed information of this expenditure will need to be included in the unions annual returns to the Certification Officer.  This is to be enforced by the Certification Officer.

If you require any further advice on this, or any other Employment law matter, please contact the Chattertons Employment law team.