Recognising and derecognising a trade union

Statutory recognition of a trade union - starting the procedure


If you find you are unable to come to a voluntary recognition agreement with the trade union, it can make an application for statutory recognition. This only applies where you - together with any associated employers - employ 21 or more workers.

The union's request must:

  • clearly identify the union and the bargaining unit
  • state that the request is made under the Employment Relations (NI) Order 1999

You have ten working days to respond, starting with the first working day after the day you receive the request.

If you agree to the request, you have formally recognised the trade union for collective bargaining purposes.

If you reject the request or fail to respond in time, the union can apply to the Industrial Court for statutory recognition - see statutory recognition of a trade union - applying to the Industrial Court.

Negotiations with the union following its request

If you tell the union that you don't accept the request but are willing to negotiate, you have 20 working days to agree on the appropriate bargaining unit and to agree on recognition. The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) may also be of assistance.

The 20-day period starts on the day after the first ten-day period ends. You can agree with the union to extend the 20-day period.

If you fail to reach an agreement at the end of that period - or you agree on a bargaining unit but don't agree to recognise the union - the union can apply to the Industrial Court.

If - following negotiations between you and the union - the union's proposed bargaining unit is modified but you fail to agree on the bargaining unit, the union must make a new request to you that complies in full with the statutory requirements before it can make an application to the Industrial Court.

You can reach a voluntary agreement with the union even after the statutory process has started - see voluntary recognition within the statutory procedure.

If you reach an agreement, the statutory procedure ends.

Approaching LRA for help

You or the union can approach the LRA for help at any time. The LRA can provide its conciliation services to assist the parties in reaching agreement.

If you propose to the union that the LRA helps but the union fails to respond within ten working days or rejects your proposal, the union cannot make any application to the Industrial Court. The ten-day period starts on the day after that on which you made your proposal.

You have to make this proposal within ten working days of informing the union that you are willing to negotiate. This period starts on the day after you so inform the union.