Industrial Relations Laws in United Kingdom

Subject: Law
Pages: 10
Words: 2504
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: College


The industrial relation system in United Kingdom has been portrayed by intentional associations among the social partners, without or with less state involvement or interference. In19th century when the country was still under the process of industrialization and political culture which was liberal enabled trade unions to combine their power and memberships at the time when the government rarely interfered with affairs of the private sectors. There were a lot of developments on legislations which permitted the unions the right to be involved in the industrial actions and organization of the workers. The union of all trade unions was established in the year 1868 under and name Traders Union Congress (TUC).

The trade union was recognized under the trade union act in the year 1871 with all the legal requirements in place which enabled them to have right to strike. There are several acts which were established in the UK which enabled the trade unions have rights such as the right to picket peacefully through the 1875 conspiracy and protection of property Act.

The other Act also which was established was in 1906, which gave the trade unions right to industrial action through the Act of Trade disputes which enabled them not to be threatened that they will be sued for damages. The 19th century established several legislations which ensured that minimal standards are met which regulates the basic health and safety working conditions.

When the labour government took over power, there have been changes in the United Kingdom labour laws as they had them in their election pledges. There are Acts which have been enacted such as the employment relations Act (ERA 99) which gave the workers the right to recognize the union and representation of the workers by the union. The labour laws also were expanded in order to cater for the part-time workers, workers in agencies, and the workers who have families.


The minimum wage rate which was introduced in 1999 by the government is somehow commanding the employers on what they should pay even during the economic crisis. The wage rate also is considered to be lower than the international requirement when related to the standard of living in the United Kingdom. The employees are underpaid and when they want to express their views to the employers through the unions are not recognized by the law, hence they risk being dismissed from their job.

The working hours in this nation per week is long as compared to European countries though it is shorter than that of U.S. These regulations are not applicable to the senior members of management which is discrimination in the work place. The employees are normally restricted when they are supposed to execute their union duties by the law and their employers.

The United Kingdom law restricts the members who have participated on recognition strike on when they should be dismissed. The members of the unions are restricted on the free expression of members by declaring themselves that they belong to a certain union. The law expects the employers not to compile the list of activists and those of the members of the union. The freedom of association and expression of the workers is limited to the demands of the law.

The protection of the workers from dismissal by the employers for having participated on a strike or voting in favor of workers recognition is limited to 12 weeks only after the strike. It should be noted that a striking workers have a pressing issue which need to be addressed urgently by the employers. Their dismissal is not a solution since the other employees left behind will someday organize a strike over the same issue.

Under the ERA, employees numbering 20 and above are recognized through their employers with two thirds from all the workplaces.

This is restriction in situations where the employees are less than 20 and they have issues which need to be articulated through the union. The use of ballot is applied to determine the bargaining unit of the employees by the central arbitration committee which may at their own pleasure considers that the weight of the union is unanimous. This is limiting the expression of pressing issues which the employees are undergoing in the workplaces. With or without the expression through the unions, the issues should be heard. There should be nothing like having a support of the majority since one person may be undergoing problems with the employment in relationship to family matters or the whole scenario in the workplace.

There should be acceptance of such situations hence voting or balloting in a way to determine the weight of the problem in the workplace should not be the subject. The use of central arbitration committee to establish binding agreements in the workplace is not worth. This may include hours of working, salaries and wages, and holidays as a way of suppressing the freedom of expression of the employees.

The employees should be allowed to organize strikes at their disposal depending on the matters at hand, hence involving the other third parties in fighting or raising their problems is not appropriate. The victory of the union has been described by the law to include majority votes from the union members and those people in the bargaining unit amounting to 40 percent. The law should be applied directly by the courts not having the CAC coming up with a legally binding decision without hearing the views of even one employee (Bowers, 2002).

In the case of ITWF and Finish seaman’s Union vs. Viking and Laval, it was held that the laws of European Union restricts the freedom to strike as this will be an inappropriate manner which impedes the freedom of the employers in providing services. This is law and it does not favor at all the employees and their union however how strong they may be. In this law the employers have the right to lay down their expected losses if a strike is held and it therefore demands that the union pays them the loss due. The union in most cases will be rendered bankrupt if they pay such huge sums of money hence they will consider calling of the strike.

This restricts the employees’ freedom of expression and they are being exploited by the employers. Viking and Laval case makes the employers seek an injunction with reference to the argument that the strike is rendered illegal by this case. This affects the freedom of expression of the employees even if they voted overwhelmingly for the strike. This case when applied in the United Kingdom’s courts provides an injunction against any industrial relations actions. The employees also risks being fired since they will not express their dissatisfactions. The judiciary if allowed to apply the law, will results in a manner which the employees or worker’s benefits are being outweighed by the employers’ impact of the strike.

The application of laws in the United Kingdom indicates a limitation on the industrial actions. This is in breach of the common law contract of the workers who are restricted from taking part in the strike action. The law only protects the trade union members from dismissal only when the trade union has the immunity from liability. The government should put in place measures which will ensure that the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act (TULRA) is amended with an intention of widening the level of the workers protections which are available when they officially and legally organize industrial relations action.

The employees are so suppressed in articulating their problems which they want their employers to act on them accordingly. The employers are defending themselves with the same law which it should protect the interest of the employees. The government having the power to put in place mechanisms which protects or safeguards the interests of both parties should be put in place.

The trade union members have been struggling to have their proposals passed by the government but there has been no positive response. The law limits the duration when a worker should not be dismissed from work for a period of 12 weeks and thereafter the employers have the right to dismiss the worker. This does not meet the international standards of the rights of the worker to strike and have their views listened to by both the government and the employer.

Trade unions in the United Kingdom have been pushing for removal of this right of employers to dismiss the worker but the government has disregarded the expressions of the union. This is limitation of the powers of the workers through the union. The government rejection is uncalled for and it limits the well representation of the workers in articulating real issues affecting them. Freedom of expression of the employees is very important and necessary since there will be amicable relationship which is bidding between the employees and their employers (Barrow, 2002).

The business people have greatly influenced the laws which have passed which regulate the workers and the trade unions. The trade unions are not heard when expressing the real issues affecting the workers. Recognition ballots have been articulated by the trade union to have the manipulated votes be put to an end in situations where the nonparticipation counts are equal to the votes not in favor of as a way of expressing democracy.

The trade union have been struggling to have a clear representation in the laws which regulates them arises from them but the lobbying business people have been at the forefront in expressing there interest so as to ignore the position of the trade union. The industrial actions of the striking members are not protected in the industrial relations laws. The trade union is struggling to have such a case be scrapped from the laws but they have not succeeded even through use of consultative means.

There has been victimization of the resisting union members by the companies which are against the recognition claims. The workers have not been allowed to have freedom of service provision but are the subjects of their services. They are liable if they do not provide their services to the employer. This is against the set international laws which permit the worker the right to offer and stop offering the services when one observes that the issues affecting them are not being addressed well by participating in an industrial relations action (Lorber & Novittz, 2010).

The laws of the United Kingdom threatens the existence of the workers unions, and seeking justice in the courts or through the judicial system would give an irrelevant ruling and a meaningless solution due to the request of an injunction and the expected delays of the process. The European community judiciary supports this view but the government of United kingdom disapproves it and reiterates that the trade disputes are domestic problems and should not be interfered with buy the foreigners. The ECJ is only concerned with cases where freedom establishment and the movement of services among the states and companies are affected and should be acted upon by amending the laws which are in place.

The TULRA needs to be amended to meet the international laws requirements, of protecting the workers and to permit the trade unions to engage in an industrial action and should indicate all the steps that needs to be taken in regards to this Act.

Currently the numbers of agreements which have been signed by the trade unions and the employers have declined despite a great number of the campaigns by the trade union seeking recognition deals. The union is facing tough tasks in securing the agreements sealed due to the fact that the new law of recognition unblocked their right to recognition but still affects the expression of the demands of the workers. The battle between the employers and the trade union is still on and the employers are becoming more resistant to the expressions of the workers.

The trade union should be fully recognized in negotiations of their rights over pension. The employers do not want the pension negotiation right be reverted to the trade union since their freedom of reducing the pension due to the employees at their own will, will be taken away. The employees have been seeking the rights to protection by the trade union in cases where their employers cut their pension. The number of employees covered by the recognition deals is dropping every year even those covered under the voluntary recognition.

There are companies which have attained their recognition such as the Madame Tussauds (GMB), Avon cosmetics among others. This shows that the campaigns carried out by the trade unions has bore fruits and their stakes in future are increasing.


In conclusion, there have been recognition of the various trade union demands and several deals have since been signed. The findings of the Act have established a smooth process in recognition procedure with any disputes in the union and the legal challenges being minimal. There have been over 1000 recognition deals which have been signed through the voluntary settlement since 1998 when the recognition law was passed.

There are still a lot of challenges being faced by the workers in the process of recognition such as those which have been discussed above and they need urgent attention so as to change them. There should also be provision of the earlier access to the rights of the workers and the trade unions to the recognition cases. The delays being faced are not necessary.

There are still challenges of the right of being accompanied by other members so that they may also say something in the disciplinary hearing or the grievance cases. The law should clarify this issue of companion contribution in the hearing. The trade union members should be allowed to contribute on cases which are aimed at disciplining their members so that the main area of concern is factored in the decision made over it (Collins, 2005).

There should be law which gives the workers the right to get access to all the services of the union. This will empower the workers in expressing their concerns in the workplaces and the issues which they feel they should be articulated legally. The law which regulates trade unions such as that of the unions’ elections and to those regulating the political fund ballots should be changed since they will ease the burden of administration of the unions.

The laws which govern the automatic recognition where the union members make up the highest number should be considered for changes despite the lack of enough evidence. The forty percent entry to the legal recognition ballots also need to be considered for the changes. The workers who are less than twenty in their workplace should not be excluded in formation of a union, hence the law which regulates this needs to be changed. Finally, there should be immediate changes in the legal regulations of the employees who are faced with possibilities of dismissal due to their support of the recognition strike.


Barrow, C. 2002. Industrial Relations Law. 2nd ed. Cavendish.

Bowers, J. 2002. Employment Law. 6th ed. OUP.

Collins, H. 2005. Labour Law text and materials. 2nd ed. Oxford.

Lorber, P. & Novittz, L. 2010. Industrial Relations Law in the UK. Intl Specialized Book Service Inc.