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UK: Industrial relations

Original and updating author: Darren Newman
Consultant editor: Jo Broadbent


  • Individuals have a right to join, or not join, trade unions of their choice, and "independent" trade unions and their members have various statutory entitlements, with additional rights in cases where the union is recognised by an employer for collective bargaining purposes. (See Trade unions)
  • Employer recognition of trade unions for collective bargaining is mainly voluntary, although unions may in some circumstances use a statutory procedure to obtain mandatory recognition. Where recognised, unions have various legal entitlements, such as paid time off for officials. (See Trade union recognition)
  • Collective bargaining is predominantly voluntary and the content and process of bargaining are subject to little statutory regulation, although recognised trade unions are entitled to receive information relevant to bargaining and their officials are entitled to paid time off for negotiations. (See Collective bargaining)
  • Collective agreements are binding in honour only and not legally enforceable, but may be given legal force by the incorporation of their provisions into the employment contracts of the employees covered. (See Collective agreements)
  • A statutory procedure for informing and consulting employees on certain general business and employment issues potentially applies to any employer that employs 50 or more employees, but only if its employees make a valid request for such arrangements. (See Informing and consulting employees - general)
  • Where an employer plans to make redundant at one establishment 20 or more employees within a 90-day period, it is obliged to consult representatives of the affected employees, with a view to reaching an agreement. (See Informing and consulting prior to redundancies)
  • In the event of a business transfer, the seller (transferor) and buyer (transferee) are required to provide information to and, where appropriate, consult representatives of their affected employees. (See Informing and consulting prior to transfers)
  • "Community-scale" undertakings or groups of undertakings with headquarters in the UK must, at the request of employees or their representatives, establish a special negotiating body to negotiate over the establishment of a European Works Council. (See European Works Councils)
  • Industrial action is heavily regulated, and strikes and other action are lawful only if they are called for certain reasons and if detailed procedural requirements (such as a ballot of the workers concerned) are followed. (See Industrial action and picketing)