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Trade Union Act 2016 and Enterprise Act 2016 both become law

The Trade Union Bill and the Enterprise Bill have both now received Royal Assent to become the Trade Union Act 2016 and the Enterprise Act 2016 respectively. The relevant employment law provisions in the new legislation will be brought into force by regulations on dates still to be confirmed, but this could well start to happen in the next couple of months. Some of the provisions in the Acts will also require secondary legislation to flesh out the detail.

The Trade Union Act 2016 represents the biggest reform of trade union law in 30 years and its provisions include:

  • Ensuring industrial action can only take place where there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%.
  • In important public services, including in the health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors, an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all eligible members must be met for the action to be lawful.
  • Setting a six-month time limit, which can be increased to nine months if the trade union and employer agree, for industrial action following a ballot so that ballot mandates are always recent.
  • Requiring a clearer description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear what they are voting for.
  • Requiring unions to provide 14 days’ notice of any strike action, or seven days if the employer agrees to this.
  • Creating a transparent process for trade union subscriptions that allows new members to make an active choice of whether to pay into a union’s political funds.
  • Reducing the burden on taxpayers by ensuring that payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions are only administered where the cost is not funded by the public.
  • Ensuring transparency and greater accountability relating to the use of public money for trade union “facility time”, such as the amount spent on paid time off for union duties and activities.
  • Granting statutory force to parts of the current Code of Practice on Picketing, for example, the requirement to appoint a picket supervisor.

The employment law measures in the Enterprise Act 2016 include:

  • A number of measures aimed at boosting the quality and quantity of apprenticeships, such as regulating the use of the word "apprenticeship" to cover only government-accredited schemes, increasing the number of public sector apprenticeships available in England and establishing a new, independent Institute for Apprenticeships.
  • Strengthening retail workers' rights to opt out of Sunday working (however, the initial proposals to allow local authorities to extend Sunday trading hours were dropped some time ago).
  • Capping public sector exit payments at £95,000.


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