Trade union law specialists, Thompsons Solicitors, break down what new regulations mean for trade unions.

Just before Christmas, the government laid the regulations for the implementation of almost all of the outstanding provisions of the Trade Union 2016. These include the requirement for the Certification Officer to impose a levy and new powers to impose financial penalties on unions.

The new rules will mean that the unions will have to pay for the handling of complaints against unions. This is despite the fact that in 2021, the Certification Officer dealt with just 34 complaints, and not one was pursued with an enforcement order.

All these changes come into force on 1 April 2022.

In setting the levy, the Certification Officer (CO) will have to aim to ensure that the total amount levied over any three year period does not exceed her relevant expenses in that period. The CO’s relevant expense are those referable to her statutory functions, and include things like salaries and accommodation costs, but exclude expenses associated with investigations, legal services and dealing with entries on the list of trade unions.

There will be three categories of levy: the ‘basic levy’, to be allocated, subject to exemptions, between trade unions and employers’ organisations; the ‘categorised additional levy’, to be attributed, subject to exemptions, to non-federated trade unions; and the ‘enhanced levy’, which will make up for the shortfall in the total levy because of exemptions.

The CO will be able to impose either unconditional or conditional financial penalties ranging from £200 to £10,000 for unions with less than 100,000 members, and from £200 to £20,000 for unions with 100,000 members or more, in each case depending on the type of breach.

Other areas of the Trade Union Act 2016 coming into force on 1 April 2022 include rights of appeal from CO decisions not being confined to points of law, new investigatory and enforcement powers, and the ability to consider whether there has been a breach without first receiving a complaint from a member or third party.

Richard Arthur, Thompsons Head of Trade Union law, commented: “It is staggering that at a time when the government should have been focusing on dealing with the pandemic, it made resources available to bring these further assaults on trade unions into force.

“And yet still there is no sign of the much-promised Employment Bill - so much for ‘levelling up’. This is a government that thinks that rules are for ordinary people and the trade unions who represent them, but they don’t apply to its own leaders.”