Rights arising from unions

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There was a time in the UK when many employees were members of trade unions and relied on those unions to negotiate (or collectively bargain for) their employee rights. In recent decades, this practice has significantly diminished, with Parliament taking on the responsibility for creating laws that set down what those rights should be and removing the element of bargaining from them. The legal right to be paid a minimum wage, to not be unfairly dismissed and to not suffer discrimination at work are good examples of this.

However, collective bargaining does still exist and is prevalent in some industries and some rights are still enforced that way. Most importantly, industrial action is still conducted by trade unions, and trade union representatives often assist with health and safety issues. They may also assist employees with grievances and disciplinary action.

In the private sector, in 2015, about 14% of employees were members of a trade union. By contrast, in the public sector it was about 55% for the same year.

However, in spite of the decline of union membership, your workforce may decide they want a trade union recognised. elXtr has a fact sheet covering that topic. Or, a job applicant might be a member of a trade union; trade union membership must not be a ground for declining the application. Alternatively, one of your employees may seek to join a trade union. Union officials often have a right to paid time off for union duties and training. Our fact sheets cover trade union recognition and many related items, to help you tread a safe path through trade union matters.

We recommend using our guides as your starting point and to set helpful context for the way in which the templates and other documents can be used. If you’re ever unsure about how to use any of our materials, just get in touch on the contact details below.


The content on elXtr has been prepared by LHS Solicitors. It’s intended as guidance only and not to be regarded as a substitute for consultation with one of our solicitors, since every case will ultimately turn on its own particular facts and circumstances. We recommend that you use our materials as your starting point and be aware that you sometimes have to follow a set procedure before taking any action, especially in an employment context. If you are in any doubt, we’d suggest that you get in touch with us and we’ll talk you through your options on how to get the right legal advice.