Today (1st March 2017), important changes to trade union laws come into force.

The government introduced the changes in the Trade Union Act 2016 but, up to now, they were waiting to come into effect. Here, we take a look at some of them and how they may affect you.

Minimum ballot turnout requirement

For strike action to be lawful, the ballot calling for industrial action will need at least a 50% turnout of entitled voters. This will reduce strikes taking place where there isn’t a clear mandate from union members.

Minimum support requirement for important public services

Strikes in important public services will need at least 40% of the vote in favour of action.

This ensures that action causing a significant impact on public services will only be lawful if there is substantial support from union members.

The important public services include:

  • Medical services
  • Transportation services
  • Education
  • Border security
  • Firefighting services

Minimum notice requirement

Employers need a minimum of fourteen days’ notice before the industrial action takes place (unless the employer and union agree to just seven days).

The increased notice will allow employers to take pre-emptive action to reduce the disruption to their business like rearranging goods orders, explaining the situation to customers or taking on fixed-term staff as cover.

Time limit for action starting

After a successful vote for industrial action, strikes will only be able to take place within six months of the date of the ballot (extended to nine months if the employer agrees).

This provision will limit the possibility of unions calling industrial action on the back of a historic vote. It doesn’t stop fresh ballots every six months to ensure lawful strike action can go ahead.

What do the changes mean for you?

We’ll likely see a reduced number of strikes. Unions will have to meet the ballot turnout and support thresholds before carrying out lawful industrial action.

As well as potentially affecting your business, the changes will have a positive effect on transport strikes; staff lateness and absenteeism should reduce. On the other hand, the new law changes won’t reduce the possibility of unofficial strike action.