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Trade Unions & Works Councils

Our Trade Union and Collective Rights team advises employers on all aspects of industrial relations and collective employment law.

Our team works with employers across all sectors to manage their engagement with trade unions and works councils. It has particular experience in advising on engaging with unions in the context of collective consultation exercises, union recognition applications and industrial action. It also advises on overlaps between individual and collective rights in areas such as union blacklisting, unlawful inducements relating to collective bargaining and claims for detriment or dismissal based on trade union duties or activities.

Proactive industrial relations strategies help employers avoid industrial disputes. Disputes are nevertheless sometimes unavoidable. Our team has experience of successfully defending our clients’ interests in the Central Arbitration Committee, Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal, High Court and Court of Appeal in such circumstances.

Collective Consultation

Our team develops proactive industrial relations strategies for businesses that need to engage in collective consultation. These take into account both legal and commercial considerations, and wider issues such as unions’ leverage campaign tactics. Its recent experience includes advising employers with heavily unionised workforces on the closure of their defined benefit pension schemes, the closure of operations at some or all of their sites in the UK and the implementation of new terms and conditions of employment by way of “fire and rehire” exercises.

For further information, please see our guides on collective redundanciesTUPE and information and consultation under the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004.

Trade Union Recognition

Our team regularly negotiates, renegotiates and advises on union recognition agreements. It also has significant experience in defending statutory recognition requests. Its experience of this includes appearing in arbitration proceedings at ACAS, acting in disputes before the Central Arbitration Committee, and representing clients in the higher courts.

For further information, please see our guide on trade union recognition.

Industrial Action

Proactive industrial relations strategies help employers avoid industrial action. Strikes and industrial action short of a strike are nevertheless sometimes unavoidable. Our team advises on all aspects of industrial action including union balloting, picketing, the withholding of pay, the use of agency workers, responding to unions’ leverage campaign tactics, and the strategic considerations involved in deciding whether to seek a strike injunction and applying for it.

For further information, please see our guide on industrial action.


Related items


The WRC’s Report on its 2020 Decisions and Recommendations

13 January 2022

The Irish Workplace Relations Commission (the “WRC”) has issued a “first of its kind” report analysing the decisions and recommendations issued by the WRC in 2020. This report highlights some trends that will be of interest to employers. In this article we summarise the key points and discuss some takeaways for employers.

New TUC proposals: trade unions to inform and inspire platform workers

17 December 2021

The Trades Union Congress has called for trade unions to have a digital right of access to platform and gig economy workers and for the introduction of sectoral collective bargaining. These calls follow the Labour Party’s commitment that the next Labour government will give these rights and others to trade unions.

New judgment further restricts employers’ scope for responding to industrial action

01 December 2021

The Employment Appeal Tribunal recently interpreted the law on detrimental treatment for trade union activities in a way that limits the scope for employers to respond to industrial action. In another decision, it has now decided that participating staff may also bring claims under separate blacklisting regulations, which entitle employees to potentially far greater compensation in the form of an automatic minimum award of £5,000.

Contract breaking up is never easy

Unions have no veto over changes to terms, Supreme Court confirms

28 October 2021

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has confirmed that trade unions do not enjoy a veto over employers making direct offers to their members to change their terms and conditions of employment.


Unlawful offers to bypass collective bargaining – narrow scope confirmed

09 September 2021

If an employer tells employees who are members of a recognised trade union that it will unilaterally impose new terms, it is not making an “offer” amounting to an unlawful inducement to bypass collective bargaining, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has confirmed. The members’ redress is limited to their rights under contract law, such as to work only “under protest” and sue for breach of contract.


New judgment restricts employers’ scope for responding to industrial action

30 June 2021

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has interpreted the law on detrimental treatment for trade union activities in a way that limits how employers may respond to their staff taking industrial action.


Lewis Silkin successful in Deliveroo Court of Appeal rider status challenge

24 June 2021

By a unanimous 3-0 verdict, the Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s dismissal of a judicial review of a finding by the Central Arbitration Committee that Deliveroo riders are not “workers”. The Court ruled that the riders are not in an “employment relationship” for the purposes of European law.


Court of Appeal rejects challenge to Deliveroo riders’ self-employed status

24 June 2021

The Court of Appeal has unanimously and emphatically rejected an appeal, based on novel human rights arguments, that Deliveroo riders were “workers” for the purposes of the UK’s trade union recognition legislation.

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