Trade union reform – Peace in our time, or a world of unintended consequences? | EEF

Trade union reform – Peace in our time, or a world of unintended consequences?

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It’s the biggest change to trade union law for over 30 years. And it’s coming soon.

The reforms found in the law increase the responsibilities and influence of the Certification Officer to oversee union activities. In terms of the employment law implications, the key measures include

  • The introduction of a minimum threshold for turnout in industrial action ballots (50% of those entitled to vote)
  • For organisations involved in the provision of defined important public services, an additional requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote must vote in favour of action
  • A review on the feasibility of electronic voting
  • Changes to the ballot paper, requiring definitions of intended actions short of a strike and the periods within which each form of mandated industrial action is expected to take place
  • An increase in the notice required for the beginning of any form of mandated industrial action to two weeks
  • A lifespan of six months (or up to nine months, where both parties agree) for any mandated action
  • New restrictions to limit the actions of pickets and criminalise any acts carried out in breach of the new rules

In addition, the government is looking to amend legislation to allow employers to use agency workers to cover those taking part in industrial action, although this is not part of the current bill.

So, is this the end of industrial action? Is this a fatal blow to union activity? We think not… HR practitioners will know that, often, employment law changes can throw up a number of unintended consequences, as employers and employee representatives work through the practical detail of changing legislation. Does the restriction of lawful industrial action make other, less familiar forms of unlawful action more likely? And if so, what do we do about it?

We have organised a series of breakfast seminars at venues across the UK to discuss the changes to the law and the potential implications, both deliberate and accidental, for employers and employee representatives. Practical and technical, our breakfast sessions give an insight into both the legal and the real world implications of the biggest shake up for a generation.


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