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Individual Union Members' and Officials' Rights

Rights of Individual Union Members & Officials

Individual members of a recognised, independent trade union have certain significant rights.


As the employer, you may not refuse to employ some one, or offer terms which act as a deterrent to a prospective employee on the grounds of membership or non-membership of a union. An employee who, as a result, is either refused or does not take the job, can claim compensation from you in an industrial tribunal if the action is commenced within three months of the complained-of behaviour.

Treatment whilst Employed

Once employed, employees cannot be pressurised by financial or other penalties into, or against, membership or non-membership of a trade union. Giving positive incentives to an employee not to join a union or to participate in union activities or to negotiate with the employer on an individual basis rather than through collective bargaining, may be permissible (but see Detriment below).


Trade union members and officials also have rights regarding time off for union activities as do union safety representatives.

Dismissal or Detriment

Dismissal or detriment for an employee's trade union membership/non-membership (e.g. unjustified selection for redundancy) or on the grounds relating to recognition or derecognition of a union, is generally unlawful and any such dismissal will be considered in law to be automatically unfair. If trade union pressure forces the dismissal, such dismissal may still be unfair but the union can be joined as a co-defendant in the proceedings and the employment tribunal may make the union liable to pay some or all of the compensation awarded to the employee.

Since 6th April 2005 (subject to the Employment Relations Act 2004) employees taking lawfully organised industrial action have been protected so that it is automatically unfair to dismiss workers:-

1. During the first 12 weeks of industrial action
2. After the first 12 weeks but the employee had stopped taking industrial action before the end of that period, and
3. After the 12 week period if the employer has not taken all reasonable steps to resolve the dispute
This extended protection does not apply to employees taking part in unofficial industrial action.

Workers are also protected against discrimination by ommission on the grounds of the trade union membership or non-membership or trade union activities (such as giving a benefit to non-members but not to union members). Workers cannot be blacklisted as a result of union membership or activities.

Failure to Reinstate or Re-engage

An employment tribunal can impose an additional award to reinstate or re-engage on trade union grounds having been ordered to do so.

Union Dues

There are special rules relating to payment of union dues under a check-off agreement

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