Trade union recognition


Tamsin Wallace, Eversheds Last Modified  08 September 2016

A trade union may be recognised by an employer for collective bargaining purposes either through a voluntary agreement, or recognition may be imposed by the Central Arbitration Committee if a trade union application meets certain criteria. A number of collective rights result from recognition, including the right for the trade union to receive information and be consulted in specified situations.

Key points

  • Employees have the right to join, or not to join, a trade union if they wish.
  • There is legal protection for trade union members, for example, against certain less favourable treatment, whether or not the trade union is recognised by the employer for collective bargaining.
  • An employer is not bound to negotiate with a trade union unless the union is recognised by the employer for the purposes of collective bargaining.
  • In the absence of a voluntary agreement to recognise a union, an employer may be required to recognise a union following a successful request complying with the statutory recognition procedure.
  • As a consequence of recognition, a trade union accrues a number of collective and individual rights including time off and consultation rights.
  • Obtaining a certificate of independence is important for trade unions in terms of both legal and practical industrial relations.