A wide range of legislation exists on the regulation of Trade Unions, particularly in relation to membership and industrial action.
Employees should not face detriment for any association or non association with a Trade Union. There is also protection against dismissal or other detriment for employees who wish to belong to or not belong to a Trade Union.
There is specific legislation that provides for union learning representatives to have reasonable time off with pay for training and for carrying out their learning duties.
An employee who is an official of an independent Trade Union recognised by the employer is entitled to reasonable paid time off to fulfil their duties which would include receiving training, fulfilling their Trade Union duties and consulting with the employer. The employee is also entitled to unpaid time off for other Trade Union purposes which would include attending the annual conference.
Employees have the right to take part in Trade Union activities at what is known as 'an appropriate time' and to not be dismissed or suffer a detriment for doing so.
Employees have the right not to make payments in lieu of union membership if they do not wish to do so. There are also rules to dictate how a Trade Union may exclude or discipline a Trade Union member and protection against the unlawful deduction of Trade Union subscriptions through what is known as a 'check off' system i.e. an automatic deduction from wages. Unlawful exclusion or expulsion from a Trade Union also attracts protection under the legislation.
Employers have a degree of protection where union labour only and union recognition requirements in commercial contracts are at issue. Business is also protected where industrial action arises to promote closed shop practices, or to take action against businesses that have no union.
With regard to industrial action, there is legislation on the statutory immunities, enabling Trade Unions and individuals or organise industrial action without the fear of being sued in the courts.
In conjunction with this, legislation exists to define what is and is not a trade dispute, what constitutes a properly conducted secret ballot, the notice of industrial action required to be given to employers, laws on the issue of secondary action and unlawful picketing, and the dismissal of employees taking industrial action.
Finally, regulations to control the election to Trade Union executives and the operation of Trade Union political funds confirm the extent to which the law has intervened in Trade Union and employer relationships. Clearly the scope of the above list emphasizes the need to seek legal advice if any Trade Union related matter arises at an employer's premises.
Both employers and employees can take action to claim a remedy by an Employment Tribunal, or indeed, the civil courts if appropriate.