Meaning and types of trade union recognition
A trade union is said to be recognised once an employer has agreed to negotiate with it on pay and working conditions on behalf of a particular group of workers.
The subsequent negotiation process is known as collective bargaining, with the group of workers the union represents referred to as the bargaining unit.
If an employer agrees to recognise a trade union the employer has certain legal obligations towards the union and its members - see the consequences of trade union recognition.
Voluntary trade union recognition
The most common way a union can gain recognition for collective bargaining purposes is by the employer simply agreeing to recognise it voluntarily.
In practice this means the union becomes recognised by the employer without using any legal procedures. See voluntary recognition of a trade union.
Statutory trade union recognition
If an employer and trade union find they are unable to come to a voluntary recognition agreement, a trade union can make an application for statutory recognition. This only applies where the employer, together with any associated employers, employs 21 or more workers.
Note that there can be voluntary agreements even after the union has triggered the statutory process - see voluntary recognition within the statutory procedure.