Trade unions

Refusal of employment on union membership grounds

It is unlawful to refuse to employ a person because they are a member (or are not a member) of a trade union, or because they refuse to join or leave a trade union. It is also unlawful for an agency to refuse employment services on those grounds.

An employment tribunal can award compensation "on the same basis as damages for breach of statutory duty", and this may include compensation for injury to feelings, as well as financial loss (section 140(1)(a) and 2, Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA)). There is an upper limit equal to that of the compensatory award in unfair dismissal cases (section 140(4), TULRCA) (see Compensatory award). There is no minimum award. For more information, see Practice note, Blacklisting of trade unionists: Refusal of employment on union membership grounds (TULRCA).

Inducements relating to union activities or collective bargaining
 

An employer must not make any offer to an employee to induce them to give up (or take up) union membership, or to give up union activities, services or collective bargaining (sections 145A and 145B, Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA)). An employment tribunal must make a mandatory award where a claim is upheld (section 145E, TULRCA). The amount is adjusted annually by the Secretary of State in line with RPI under a formula set out in section 34 of the Employment Relations Act 1999.


The mandatory award from 6 April 2019 was prescribed by the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2019 (SI 2019/324).

Consultation with union on training
 

Where the Central Arbitration Committee specifies a method of collective bargaining, an employer must consult union representatives periodically on its policy, actions and plans for training members of the bargaining unit. If it does not, the union may bring a complaint against the employer in an employment tribunal and the tribunal may award a maximum of two weeks' pay to each person who was a member of the bargaining unit (section 70C, Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992), subject to the statutory limit on a week's pay (for which, see Week's pay). There is no minimum award.

Unjustifiable discipline by a union


Where an individual has been unjustifiably disciplined by a trade union, they can bring a complaint against the union in an employment tribunal. There is no minimum award. The maximum amount of compensation which the tribunal can award is the aggregate of the basic award and the compensatory award for unfair dismissal purposes (section 67(8), Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992). For statutory limits on the basic and compensatory awards, see Basic award and Compensatory award.

Exclusion or expulsion from a union


Where an individual is unlawfully excluded or expelled from a trade union, they can bring a complaint against the union in an employment tribunal. Where the claim is upheld, the tribunal must award a minimum amount of compensation (section 176(6A), Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA)). The minimum amount is adjusted annually by the Secretary of State in line with RPI under a formula set out in section 34 of the Employment Relations Act 1999. The mandatory award from 6 April 2020 was prescribed by the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2020 (SI 2020/205).


The maximum amount of compensation which can be awarded is the aggregate of the basic award and the compensatory award for unfair dismissal purposes (section 176(6B), TULRCA). For statutory limits on the basic and compensatory awards, see Basic award and Compensatory award.

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