RECOGNITION OF A UNION - Industrial Relations Management

A recognized trade union represents workers in negotiations with their employer. These negotiations will usually centre on workers’terms and conditions.
When an employer recognizes a trade union, it will be for bargaining on behalf of a particular group of workers. This group is often called a‘bargaining unit’.
An independent trade union recognized by an employer has certain legal rights. These include the rights for its:

  1. officials to be given time off work by the employer to carry out their trade union duties
  2. members to be given time off work to take part in trade union activities
  3. officials to be given information by the employer that they can use in collective bargaining with the employer
  4. learning representatives to be given time off for their duties in relation to the learning and training of employees and to have training to carry out those duties

An independent trade union recognized by an employer also has the right to be consulted by the employer about certain issues. These include:

  • health and safety matters
  • when the employer is thinking about making a group of workers that includes trade union members redundant
  • when the transfer of the employer’s business is being considered

A trade union can become recognized by making a voluntary agreement or following a statutory procedure involving the Central Arbitration Committee(CAC).

Voluntary recognition

If your employer does not recognize a trade union in your workplace, then a trade union can become recognized by making a voluntary agreement with your employer. This is the way most recognition arrangements in the UK are established.

Statutory recognition

If your employer will not make a voluntary agreement with a trade union, then the trade union can follow a statutory procedure for recognition. The statutory procedure applies to employers that have 21 or more workers.


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