The Trade Union Bill Receives Royal Assent


3 mins

Posted on 05 May 2016

The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent on 4 May.

The Act:

  • Requires a 50% turnout in all industrial action ballots;
  • Requires industrial action in ‘important public services’ (health, education of those under 17, fire, transport, nuclear decommissioning and border security), to have the support of at least 40% of all those eligible to vote;  
  • Requires more detailed descriptions of the trade dispute and proposed action to be included on the ballot paper;
  • Imposes a six month time limit on the validity of each ballot, although this can be increased to nine months with the employer’s agreement 
  • Requires unions to provide 14 days’ notice of any strike action, or seven days’ notice if the employer agrees;  
  • Requires the Government to commission an independent review of possible methods of electronic balloting within six months (although there is no commitment to its introduction);  
  • Amends the process for payment of trade union subscriptions. New union members must be able to choose whether to pay into a union’s political fund and must be provided with information on opting out from making contributions on an annual basis. Check off (i.e. the deduction of trade union membership subscriptions via payroll) will continue, but for employers in the public sector (and some private sector employers that provide public services), it will only be permitted if the union contributes to the cost of administering it;
  • Requires employers in the public sector (and some private sector employers that provide public services) to publish information on ‘facility time’, such as the amount spent on paid time off for union duties and activities and the amount of time taken up by those duties and activities. Secondary legislation will identify which employers will be caught by this requirement and what information they will be required to publish. The Act also provides for the possibility of further regulations that would allow Ministers to impose caps on facility time at a particular employer if the amount and cost of facility time is a cause for concern;
  • Gives statutory force to certain parts of the current Code of Practice on Picketing – for example, the requirement to appoint a picket supervisor; and
  • Introduces new powers for the Certification Officer to investigate and take enforcement action where a union breaches its statutory duties.

Provisions to repeal the ban on the use of agency workers to stand in for striking workers are not contained in the Act. They were due to be introduced in secondary legislation, but there has been no update on the likely timing.

It is not yet know when the Act will come into force.  It does not specify a commencement date and will be brought into force by a subsequent statutory instrument.

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