Guide

Trade union membership rights

Trade union membership rights of job applicants - employers

An individual has the right not to be refused employment because:

  • they are not a member of a trade union, or will not agree to become a member
  • they are a member of a trade union or will not agree to cease being a member
  • they will not agree to make a payment - eg to a union or charity - in lieu of union membership or to allow a prospective employer to deduct a sum of money from their pay to make such a payment

It is unlawful for an employer to refuse employment in contravention of any of these rights.

What types of employment are covered?

'Employment' means employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship.

It does not include self-employment under a contract for services.

What is meant by the term 'trade union'?

The term 'trade union' means:

  • any trade union
  • a particular trade union
  • one of a number of particular trade unions
  • a particular branch or section of a trade union
  • one of a number of particular branches or sections of a trade union

Refusal of employment

A person will be regarded as having been refused the employment they are seeking if the prospective employer or agent acting on the employer's behalf:

  • refuses or deliberately omits to deal with their application or enquiry
  • causes them to withdraw or stop pursuing their application or enquiry - eg by making threats or discouraging remarks
  • refuses or deliberately omits to offer them employment of the kind they are seeking
  • makes them an offer of employment of the kind they are seeking but on terms - eg the rate of pay - which no reasonable employer who wished to fill the vacancy would offer, and which is not accepted
  • makes them an offer of employment of the kind they are seeking but withdraws it or causes them not to accept it - eg by making threats or discouraging remarks

Where a person is offered employment subject to any of the requirements listed below and they do not accept the offer because they do not satisfy the requirement, or are unwilling to comply with it, they will be regarded as having been unlawfully refused employment for that reason.

The requirements are that:

  • they are or should remain a member of a trade union
  • they should take steps to become a member of a trade union
  • they are not, or should not become, a member of a trade union
  • they should take steps to cease to be a member of a trade union
  • they should make payments or suffer deductions in lieu of union membership

Job advertisements specifying union membership requirements

Where a job advertisement appears specifying any of the union membership or non-membership requirements listed above, a person who does not satisfy the requirements, or is unwilling to comply with them, and who applies for and is refused the job, will be presumed to have been refused it unlawfully.

'Advertisement' means every form of advertisement or notice, whether to the public or not. For example, it could be an advertisement in a newspaper or periodical, or a notice posted in or outside a factory.

Recruitment through trade unions

Where there is an arrangement or practice under which an employer recruits only people who have been supplied - ie put forward or approved - by a trade union from among its membership, a person who is not a member of the trade union concerned and who is refused the employment because they have not been supplied by the union, will be regarded as having been refused employment because they are not a union member.