Work effectively with trade unions

Advantages of trade union recognition


Some employers prefer to deal directly with their workers - or their elected representatives - without trade union involvement.

However, recognising and working closely with a trade union has a number of advantages.

Single point of contact

Having a single body for negotiating terms and conditions for workers is simpler than dealing with workers individually.

However, once you have agreed to this collective style of negotiating, you'll be obliged to disclose certain information to the union for collective bargaining purposes - see recognising and derecognising a trade union.

Worker involvement

If you negotiate terms and conditions and consult on workplace issues with a recognised union:

  • your workers are likely to feel more involved in the way the business is run
  • you can encourage trust and commitment among the workforce

In turn, these may help your business by improving retention rates.

Experience of employment relations

Trade unions represent not only the workers in your business, but many others in similar, related organisations. Therefore, they're likely to have a broad perspective on many issues affecting your organisation.

Union representatives with experience of employment relations in particular are a useful source of legal and good-practice advice on HR and employment law issues. This experience may be especially useful during difficult times, eg during proposed collective redundancies or business transfers - see the role of trade unions and their representatives.

If you can show the union representatives that you are interested to hear about your workers' concerns, they in turn may help get your message across to their members. Even unpopular decisions may be more acceptable to your workers if you can persuade them and their union that a change is necessary for the continued health of the business. For more information, see how to inform and consult your employees.

Informing and consulting with experienced union representatives - together with input from workers - can also help you make better-informed business decisions in general, eg in relation to shift patterns or the kind of equipment you should invest in.