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What to do when the Union comes knocking at your door

By Claire Mansell - 1 Nov 2018

Since the new government came into power 12 months ago, Unions have been particularly active. Nurses, teachers and court staff have all taken strike action this year.

Anecdotally, Unions have been more active in smaller work places as well. We are aware of many clients who are suddenly finding that Unions are taking an interest in their work place for the first time. This has meant that employers who have never had any dealings with Unions before are having to navigate what can be a tricky area of law.

Unions are granted special rights to access the workplace. A representative of a Union is entitled to enter a workplace for any purpose relating to the employment of its members or the purpose relating to the Union's business. This includes discussing Union business with Union members, seeking recruitment of new Union members and providing information about the Union to any employee on the premises.

The representative from a Union must obtain consent to enter the workplace beforehand and an employer must not unreasonably withhold consent. However, the Employment Relations Bill currently before Parliament amends this requirement and would allow a Union representative to access the workplace without the Employer's consent. The Union representative would still need to act reasonably when accessing the workplace and must comply with any health and safety requirements.

This is an area where it is very easy for employers to get fall foul of the law, particularly if they have not had any previous experience dealing with Unions.

If you are an employer and you are approached by a Union seeking access to your workplace, we recommend that you contact Claire Mansell or a member of our employment relations team immediately.


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