Legal Article - Employment Law

Right to Belong to a Union

The courts are interpreting the legal right of “every employee not to have action, short of dismissal, taken against him/her as an individual by their employer for the purpose of preventing or deterring them from being or seeking to become a member of an independent Trade Union or penalising them for doing so” in a very liberal way.

The Court of Appeal has said that any action which, makes Trade Union membership meaningless (i.e. take away the benefits of belonging to a Trade Union) is deterring employees from being members. Taking “action” includes withholding a benefit as well as imposing a penalty, whilst to “penalise” means to subject to a disadvantage. Some examples from case law of what this means in practice are

• refusing to allow union representation at a grievance hearing

• withholding a pay rise to an employee in one union which is given to other employees in another union where the same work is being done

• preventing an employee from calling in a trade union official in connection with a dispute about the contents of the employee’s terms and conditions.

Published: 03 Jun 2011


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