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Broken chain
  • Published:
    16 March
  • Area of Law:

Trade Union Act 2016 – main provisions in force

The Act introduces modernising reforms with the aim of bringing an end to “disruptive and undemocratic strike action”.

Here are some of the key provisions which came into force from 1 March:

• A requirement for a minimum threshold of a 50% turnout in all industrial action ballots, and an additional requirement, in specified important public services, of at least 40% of those entitled to vote having voted in favour of industrial action.

• New rules on the information to be included on ballet papers; including a summary of the matter(s) in issue in the trade dispute to which the proposed industrial action relates.

• Ballot result information must specify the number of individuals who were entitled to vote, whether or not the 50% turnout was met and, where the additional balloting rules on important public services apply, whether that threshold was also met.

• Employers must now be given 14 days’ notice of any industrial action; unless the parties agree to seven days’ notice.

• Mandate for industrial action expires six months after the date of the ballot, or for such longer period of time, not exceeding nine months, if the union and employer agree.

• In addition to complying with the “peaceful picketing requirements” the union must comply with extra requirements regarding supervising the picketing. There is also a new code of practice that has been produced which replaces the old version, setting out guidance on what striking employees should and should not do.

What does this mean for your business?

These reforms will apply to those businesses that recognise trade unions. The reforms have generally been welcomed by employers, and will potentially set a higher threshold before industrial action can take place. This should reduce the frustrations that some employers face when industrial action is called because only a minority of union members vote.

Other changes, including the increase in the length of the notification and clearer guidance on picketing, are also very much welcomed. Employers have longer to make alternative plans in light of the industrial action. Unfortunately, the proposal for employers to be able to use agency staff to cover striking employees was not introduced, so this restriction currently remains in place.

However, for those who have businesses in Wales, be warned the Welsh government is seeking to reverse the Trade Union Act. The impact of those businesses is unclear at the moment but watch this space.

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