Prevent discrimination and value diversity

Discrimination over membership or non-membership of unions


Refusal to employ

Employees have the right not to be refused employment because they:

  • are or are not a member of a trade union
  • used to be or used not to be a member of a trade union
  • are planning to join or are refusing to join a trade union

Any withholding of a job offer for membership or non-membership of a trade union could lead to a claim at an industrial or fair employment tribunal. However, unlike other forms of unlawful discrimination, there is a limit of the amount of compensation that a tribunal can award.

Unfair treatment during employment

An employer must not treat workers - ie not just employees - unfairly during their employment where the treatment aims to prevent the worker:

  • becoming a member of or leaving a trade union
  • carrying out trade union activities at an appropriate time
  • making use of trade union services at an appropriate time

'Trade union activities' includes voting in a trade union ballot but doesn't include taking industrial action.

An 'appropriate time' may be, for instance, outside working hours, during an employee's lunch break or at a time when the employer has agreed that they may take part in trade union activities.

This unfair treatment could be, for example, threats of dismissal or refusal to promote.

Unfair dismissal

It is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee on trade union membership grounds, eg because they refused to leave a trade union.

For more on automatically unfair dismissals, see dismissing employees.

  • LRA Workplace Information Service
    03300 555 300
Developed with:
  • Equality Commission