Work effectively with trade unions

Improving relations with trade union representatives


As an employer you have certain responsibilities towards union representatives who are your employees. However, you can improve relations with representatives and their union members by offering them help to carry out their administrative duties.

Time off work for trade union duties

If you recognise a trade union, it is normal for that trade union to appoint or elect one or more local workplace representative(s).

Employees who are such representatives of an independent, recognised trade union are entitled to reasonable time off work with pay for union duties and to undergo union training at an appropriate time.

In addition, such workplace representatives, in common with other members of the recognised trade union, are entitled to reasonable time off without pay to engage in union activities, eg to attend the annual conference of the trade union.

When arranging time off, union representatives and the employer are expected to consider the effect of their absence in terms of health and safety, inconvenience for the employer and the safety of the public. See trade union membership rights.

Read Labour Relations Agency (LRA) guidance on time off for trade union duties and activities.

Information and consultation

It is a good idea to:

  • inform representatives of recognised trade unions about important developments in the business that may affect their working conditions
  • consult them before implementing such changes

You have specific legal obligations to inform and consult union representatives on certain matters - see the role of trade unions and their representatives.

Use of company facilities

To help union representatives carry out their duties, you could:

  • allow them use of company facilities, eg office space, telephone and email access
  • help with union administration, eg by deducting subscriptions from employees' wages, something known as 'check-off'

If relations with trade unions break down

If relations between you and your employees and/or their unions deteriorate and you can't find a solution, outside help may be needed, eg from the Labour Relations Agency (LRA), to improve relations or settle any dispute. See our guide on industrial disputes.

The LRA offers voluntary collective conciliation services to employees and employers experiencing collective disputes.

  • Industrial Court
    028 9025 7599
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