Key aspects of the Trade Union Act 2016 come into force on 1 March. Whilst there has been a downward trend in strike action over the last 20 years, in 2015 the Conservative Government called into question the legitimacy of strike ballots with low turnouts. This led to the Trade Union Act 2016 which did not have a smooth passage through Parliament, with concessions made by the Government to address some of the concerns raised over the erosion of union rights. Aspects of the Act take effect from 1st March:

  • The Act introduces a requirement that a ballot cannot authorise industrial action unless turnout is at least 50%.
  • In addition to the 50% requirement, 40% of those entitled to vote must vote in favour of action in “important public services”. Several sets of regulations have been produced defining important public services, which cover health services, education of those under 17, fire services, transport services and border security. It is anticipated there will be further regulations bringing decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel within scope as well.
  • Unions will need to provide two weeks’ notice of industrial action.
  • New picketing rules apply.

Interestingly, the recent strikes on Southern rail would have met the balloting requirements and gone ahead, even under the new regime.