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Industrial action ballots and notice to employers


LawZONE thanks Stephanie Phillips of TrainingZONE for the following article:

New rules will come into place on 18 September with regard to the way that ballots for industrial action are issued.

The revised Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers are contained in section 4 and Schedule 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999, which defined new statutory procedures for the recognition and derecognition of trade unions for collective bargaining when unions and employers are unable to reach agreement voluntarily. The Act also contained a requirement for employers to inform and consult unions on their training policies and plans, together with changes to the law on trade union membership. With a few exceptions (notably provisions relating to the National Minimum Wage), the Act does not generally extend to Northern Ireland.

The main features of Section 4 and Schedule 3 of the Act concern the procedures relating to union ballots as follows:

As passed in the 1992 Act, if a secret ballot is held, unions are required to inform employers of the result. An amendment to this makes it lawful in these circumstances for a union to call on its members to take action where they are employed by an employer who was informed of the result. It will remain unlawful, however, for a union to induce its members to take action if their employer was not informed of the result.

Unions are required under the 1992 Act to give to the employers concerned advance notice in writing both of the ballot and of any official industrial action which may result. The ballot notice must describe the employees who are likely to be entitled to vote so that employers are informed. In addition, the notice of official industrial action must describe the employees the union intends should take part in the action. Paragraph 3 of the new section of the Act redefines the purpose for which the notice as being to enable the employer to make plans to deal with the consequences of any industrial action and to provide information to those employees who are being balloted.

As is the case with much employment law documentation, there is a lot of information to wade through to establish the key issues for HR departments. The DTI says it's worth getting hold of two booklets which are currently being reprinted, which are known as PL869 "Industrial Action and the Law: Employees' Version" and PL870 "Industrial Action and the Law: Employers' Version", (contact the DTI for further details).

Also worth a read are the Explanatory Notes to the Employment Relations Act 1999.


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