Trade Union Act 2016 comes into force
In 2015, the Trade Union Bill proposed a number of substantial changes to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA).
Despite the Bill receiving criticism from the Equality and Human Rights Commission for a number of the Bill’s proposals potentially breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, the Bill received royal assent on 4 May 2016.
Nearly a year later, a new act is due to come into force on 1 March 2017. The main provisions of the Trade Union Act 2016 (the Act) include:
- Ballots: 50% turnout requirement (section 2)
Under current legislation, industrial action will be unlawful unless at least 50% of trade union members who responded to the ballot voted in favour of the action. Under the Act, in addition to a majority being in favour of the action, at least 50% of all eligible members must have voted.
- Ballots: important public services: 40% support requirement (section 3)
In ballots of workers engaged in "important public services", in addition to the requirement that at least 50% of all eligible members must have voted, a total of at least 40% of those entitled to vote must have voted in favour of the action.
“Important public services” will be limited to services which fall within certain categories, including health services, education, fire services, and transport services.
- Ballot result: information to be provided to union members (section 6)
Currently, as soon as reasonably practicable after a ballot, the union must ensure that all those entitled to vote are informed of the number of votes cast, the votes in favour and against and if there were any damaged voting papers.
However, the Act will change this position so that all those who vote will be informed of how many people were entitled to vote and if those individuals made up 50% of the votes cast.
- Timing and duration of industrial action (sections 8 and 9)
Under the current legislation, a trade union must provide an employer with a minimum of 7 days notice of the industrial action after it has secured a ballot mandate and before any action is taken. The Act will extend the minimum period of notice from 7 days to 14 days. However, 7 days notice will be sufficient if the union and employer agree to shorter notice being given.
- Union supervision of picketing (section 10)
The Act will impose further requirements where picketing has been organised by a trade union to draw attention to a strike action or to the dispute causing the action. The Act will also impose restrictions on the union where the union has encouraged its members to take part in the picketing.
What to expect…
The changes that will be implemented by the Act are likely to see a reduction in industrial action. The new stringent restrictions on industrial action imposed by the Act, as well as an any failure to comply with the requirements, including the new picket requirements, could mean that there will be little to no protection for a trade union and its members in legal proceedings stemming from the action.
The true impact of the changes imposed by the Act is yet to be seen.
For more information contact our employment team on 0345 070 6000.