Guide

Trade union membership rights

Tribunal claims: discrimination against workers on TU membership grounds

Individuals who think that any of their rights (as set out in trade union membership rights in the workplace) have been infringed can make an Industrial Tribunal claim.

If an employee has been dismissed - including cases where they have been dismissed on grounds of redundancy - their claim is one of unfair dismissal.

If an employee or other worker considers that they have been subjected to a detriment by an act, or deliberate failure to act, by their employer, their claim is one of detriment.

For the detriment to be unlawful, the person must have been subjected to it with the intention of putting pressure on them in respect of non-membership or membership of a union, or for the other unlawful purposes relating to failure to accept unlawful inducements.

If a worker believes that you have made an unlawful inducement relating to trade union membership as described above, their claim is one of unlawful inducement.

Pressure exerted by a trade union or other person

An employer who faces a claim of unfair dismissal may have dismissed the employee concerned as a result of pressure applied by a union or other person because the employee was not a member of a trade union. The pressure could be in the form of actual or threatened industrial action.

If the employer or the employee making the complaint claims this is so, either of them may make a request to the tribunal for the union or other person concerned to be joined - ie brought in as a party - to the proceedings.

A request by either an employer or a dismissed employee for a trade union or other person in unfair dismissal proceedings to be joined in this way will be granted by the tribunal if it is made before the hearing begins. However, the tribunal may refuse the request if it is made after the start of the hearing.

If the tribunal finds the dismissal unfair and the claim of pressure well founded, it may make any award of compensation wholly or partly against the union or other person concerned instead of - or as well as - against the employer.

Compensation

The compensatory awards for the claims in relation to union membership, non-membership and unlawful inducements vary. For more information, see current tribunal and arbitration compensation limits.

Note that in cases where a worker makes a related claim to the tribunal concerning detriment and the tribunal upholds that claim, the tribunal may award compensation for the detriment suffered.

In deciding the amount of such compensation, a tribunal may not make a reduction on the ground that a complainant:

  • contributed to their loss by accepting or not accepting an unlawful inducement
  • has received or is entitled to an award on the grounds that an unlawful inducement has been made to them

Status of contractual changes resulting from unlawful inducements

If a worker has accepted an unlawful inducement, but any consequent agreement by them to vary their terms and conditions has not yet been effected, the agreement to vary the terms and conditions is not enforceable.

In such circumstances, the employer cannot recover any cash paid or other benefits conferred on the worker concerned.

However, in cases where the agreed variation of terms and conditions has been effected, those variations are enforceable.