Upcoming UK elections – how will trade union law be affected?

18 June 2024 | Applicable law: England and Wales | 2 minute read

The Labour, Conservative and Green Party manifestos all contain ideas about reform of trade union law. A change of Government could bring far reaching change across all sectors of the economy. What is being proposed?


  • Aims to remove restrictions on trade union activity and ensure that industrial relations are based around good faith negotiation and bargaining;
  • Proposes rights for trade unions to access workplaces in a regulated and responsible manner, for recruitment and organising purposes. This would be a very significant shift away from Government policy since 2010 and could boost union membership in both the private and public sectors;
  • Proposes a duty on employers to inform their staff of their right to join a union. Presumably this would appear in the written statement of terms of employment. It too could help to boost union membership;
  • Aims to make provision for collective grievances. It is not clear how this would operate or whether workers would have the right to be accompanied by a union at a collective grievance. This would also be a real shift away from the current focus on individual rights and grievances;
  • Proposes to repeal restrictive legislation introduced in 2016 and 2023, thus making industrial action easier. These proposals would amend the rules on turnout requirements, notice of ballots, limits on the validity of strike ballots and restrictions on picketing. The requirements for postal ballots would be repealed in favour of electronic balloting (cheaper and easier and thus facilitating industrial action); and
  • Will facilitate union recognition where opposed by the employer, by amending the scheme introduced in 1999 to make it easier for a union to obtain a recognition ballot and reducing the threshold requirement for recognition to 50% of those voting. These are significant changes that could greatly increase the chance of unions achieving recognition in workplaces with no history of recognising unions.

Comment: Overall this is a very important package of proposals that could transform the industrial relations landscape in the UK.


  • Will continue with the implementation of minimum service levels under the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 (this law is currently subject to judicial review); and 

  • Will reintroduce the repeal of legislation preventing employment businesses from supplying agency workers to cover striking workers.

Comment: These measures are a continuation of the policies adopted by the Conservatives during their 14 years in power and contain no new proposals.

Green Party:

  • Would repeal much of the Conservative Government's legislation on unions;
  • Aim to restore a right to strike contained in a Charter of Workers' Rights;
  • Propose to remove 'arbitrary' ballot thresholds;
  • Would replace postal ballots for strike action;
  • Propose to overturn bans on secondary picketing and industrial action for political objectives; and 
  • Would restore legal protection for the right to organise at work and to withdraw labour.

Comment: The Green Party is not likely to be actively involved in forming Government policy, but these measures suggest that any elected Green Party MPs would lend their support to the Labour Party's union reform proposals.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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