Trade Union Bill becomes law

06 May 2016

The Trade Union Bill has received parliamentary approval (Royal Assent) and becomes the Trade Union Act 2016.

The Government announced a series of modernising reforms in 2015 to ensure strikes can only go ahead as a result of a clear and positive democratic mandate from union members: upholding the ability to strike while reducing disruption to millions of people. The Trade Union Act will ensure industrial action only ever goes ahead when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%.

In important public services, including in the health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors, an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all eligible members must be met for action to be legal.

During the Parliamentary process, the government agreed to commission an independent review into electronic balloting within 6 months.

Employment Minister Nick Boles said:

“These changes will ensure people are only ever disrupted by industrial action when it is supported by a reasonable proportion of union members. The Trade Union Act means the rights of the public to go about their lives are fairly balanced with members’ ability to strike.”

The Trade Union Act will also improve union practices and increase transparency by:

  • setting a 6 month time limit (which can be increased to 9 months if the union and employer agree) for industrial action so that mandates are always recent
  • requiring a clearer description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear what they are voting for
  • creating a transparent process for trade union subscriptions that allows new members to make an active choice of paying into political funds
  • giving more powers to the Certification Officer to ensure new and existing rules are always followed by unions
  • reducing the burden on taxpayers by ensuring that payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions are only administered where the cost is not funded by the public and ensuring transparency and greater accountability relating to the use of public money for facility time (check off U-turn).

The implementation date of the Act has not been specified however October 2016 is anticipated.