Union status and capacity
Published by a LexisNexis Employment expert
Last updated on 20/11/2019

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Union status and capacity
  • Definition
  • Status and capacity

Union status and capacity

Both workers and employers may form groupings that could generally be described as ‘unions’. In the case of employers these are usually called employers' associations. Workers also form groupings for the support and advancement of their members’ interests, which are usually called trade unions. However, membership of a trade union is often of much greater significance to a worker than membership of an employers’ association is to his employer. For example, membership of a trade union typically gives workers bargaining power with their employers that they would otherwise not have.

The law relating to trade unions is largely governed by extensive statutory provisions, such as the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.


A trade union is defined as an organisation, whether temporary or permanent:

  1. which either fulfils these two conditions:

    1. it consists wholly or mainly of workers of one or more descriptions

    2. its principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers of that description or those descriptions and employers or employers' associations

  2. or:

    1. which consists wholly or mainly of:

      1. constituent or affiliated organisations which fulfil the two conditions set out above (or themselves consist wholly or mainly of constituent or affiliated organisations which fulfil those conditions)

      2. representatives of such constituent or affiliated organisations

    2. the principal purposes of which includes the regulation of relations between workers and employers or between workers

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