The Trade Union Act: From humble origins to modern day changes

April 10, 2017

With many Employment Law changes occurring this month, HR180’s HR Assistant, Nuhman Sharif, shares some background on the Trade Union Act which originated back in the C19th and is being updated right now.

by Nuhman Sharif

HR180 Trade Union Act

Have you ever wondered how we ended up with the original Trade Union Act of 1871 or who played a pivotal role in establishing the Act? Well this was something I began to think about last week following a conversation I had with a trade union representative.

In fact, when I did some digging on the matter, it turns out that certain individuals worked tirelessly against the then belligerent Conservative Government to ensure that trade unions were recognised as legal entities. One of these individuals was Frederic Harrison who served on the Royal Commission on Trade Unions in 1867. He not only prepared union witnesses in advance by providing them with the questions to be asked by the Commission, but also assisted witnesses when they encountered difficulties during cross-examination.

Robert Applegarth was another notable figure. He was the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners and was appointed to be a union observer. He played a key role in scrupulously examining the veracity of numerous accusations that had been made against employers by their employees and then provided these findings to the pro-union members of the Commission.

Applegarth also gave evidence to the Commission and is widely regarded as the most impressive of all the trade unionists to give evidence.

So next time you work with a trade union representative, think about the lasting contributions of the likes of Harrison, Applegarth and others in ensuring the legality of trade unions!

Bringing the Trade Union Act up to date

But what about modern day changes? The government has introduced reforms to modernise trade union law. Reforms introduced by the Trade Union Act 2016 include:

  • ensure that strike action only ever takes place on the basis of clear and representative mandates, through new thresholds that strike ballots must meet
  • improve transparency and oversight of trade unions
  • require reasonable notice of strike action, and give employers greater chance to prepare for industrial action and put in place contingency plans.

And from the 1st April 2017, specified public sector employers will be obliged to generate a report detailing the paid time off their employees have been allocated for trade union related activities. More can be found via the following link:

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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