Industrial Action: Trade Union Act 2016

The new balloting rules in the Trade Union Act 2016 will become more significant following the recent industrial action by Southern Rail, London Underground and British Airways cabin crew.

The Trade Union Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 4 May 2016.  It amends several provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

Ballots: 50% turnout requirement

The current legislation provides that a strike or other industrial action will be unlawful unless at least 50% of trade union members who responded to the ballot voted in favour of the action.

However, when the 2016 Act comes into force, for the industrial action to be lawful, as well as a majority of those voting being in favour of the action, at least 50% of all eligible members must have voted for the action.

Ballots: "important public services" - 40% support requirement

In ballots for industrial action for workers engaged in "important public services", there will be a further requirement that at least 40% of those entitled to vote must have voted in favour of the action.

"Important public services" will be defined in Regulations, but will be limited to services which fall within the following categories:

  • Health services;
  • Education of those aged under 17;
  • Fire services;
  • Transport services;
  • Decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel; and
  • Border security.

This provision came into force on 5 December 2016 but only for the purpose of enabling the exercise of the power to make Regulations. It is not yet in force otherwise and is likely to come into force on 1 March 2017.

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