Yesterday the most significant piece of trade union legislation in decades, the Trade Union Act 2016, gained Royal Assent. The Government has had to make a number of concessions in order to get the controversial legislation passed before the end of the parliamentary session. The main changes which will come into effect when the Act is brought into force are:

  • Lawful industrial action will require a minimum turnout of 50% of those entitled to vote, in addition to a majority voting in favour;
  • In essential public services (including health, education, fire and transport), at least 40% of those who were entitled to vote in the ballot will be required to vote in favour of action;
  • The voting paper must include a summary of the matter or matters in issue in the trade dispute to which the proposed industrial action relates;
  • Unions will be required to give employers 14 rather than the current 7 days’ notice of industrial action, unless the union and employer agree otherwise;
  • A ballot for strike action will cease to give the union a mandate to take action 6 months after the ballot, extendable to 9 months if the employer agrees;
  • Unions will be required to appoint an identifiable supervisor when engaged in picketing;
  • After a transitional period of at least 12 months, all new trade union members will be required to pay into union political funds only if they have actively opted in; and
  • The Government will commission an independent review on electronic balloting for industrial action.

More significant restrictions on picketing were abandoned at an earlier stage. Provisions to repeal the ban on the use of agency workers to cover for striking workers are not contained in the Act but may be introduced by secondary legislation.