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.
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.
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.
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.
Collective consultation: from TUPE to trade unions18 October 2023
Collective consultation comes in different guises. Whether you’re dealing with a TUPE transfer, mass redundancies (including fire and rehire) or trade unions, you need to know a thing or two about employee representatives.
European Works Councils continue to exist in a post-Brexit UK05 September 2023
In its first ever decision on European Works Councils, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the EWCs of certain UK-based businesses continue to exist under UK law after the end of the Brexit transition period.
Labour Party’s proposals to reform workplace rights – spotlight on trade union rights26 July 2023
As part of our series exploring the Labour Party’s proposed reforms to UK employment law, we consider its far-reaching proposals to expand trade union rights. If implemented by a future Labour government, these could profoundly impact industrial relations and the wider UK labour market.
Strikes Bill on minimum service levels becomes law25 July 2023
The controversial Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 has been passed after the House of Commons rejected extensive amendments proposed by the House of Lords.
Ban on use of agency workers during strikes to be reinstated following government defeat20 July 2023
The High Court has quashed the regulations introduced by the government last year to permit the use of agency workers during industrial action. What are the implications for employers?
Employees had contractual rights to check-off arrangements but their union could not enforce them, rules Court of Appeal31 May 2023
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that government employees had contractual rights to check-off arrangements. The employees could still enforce those rights despite not actively protesting about the withdrawal of check-off for over five years. Their trade union, however, had no right to enforce check-off as a third party.
Retained EU law bill: our proposals for employment law reform15 March 2023
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill could have sweeping effects on UK employment law. With a hard deadline of 31 December 2023, quick decisions about reforms will be needed. We’ve drawn up a list of the EU-based employment laws we’d like to see changed.
New Bill to mandate minimum service levels during public service strikes12 January 2023
Faced by entrenched pay disputes across the UK public sector and railway network, the government is proposing to expand and simplify its previously-announced reforms and introduce minimum service levels during strikes across a range of public services.