Trade union recognition

Trade union recognition is a formal agreement with an employer for a particular union to undertake collective bargaining on behalf of that employer's staff.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining will typically cover:

  • terms and conditions of employment (pay, hours and holidays).
  • discipline and grievance matters.
  • health and safety.
  • allocation of work and redundancy.

This list is not exhaustive and other areas may be covered. For example. it often extends to cover professional development and change management.

Does my employer recognise NEU?

NEU is recognised in the vast majority of schools and colleges, including:

  • all maintained schools, sixth-form colleges and academies.
  • the majority FE colleges.
  • over 160 independent schools.

However, in maintained schools (including academies), NEU is not recognised to bargain collectively on behalf of support staff, though we are entitled to represent individually those who choose to join NEU. If you are not sure whether NEU is recognised in your workplace, please contact your branch secretary.

What are the benefits of trade union recognition?

Critically, recognition provides reps with certain rights and entitlements under employment law, most specifically to paid time off for training and undertaking union duties, i.e., consultation, negotiation and representation of members with the head, principal or governing body in your school or college.

Recognition has many advantages for both employers and staff alike:

  • improved communication.
  • team working.
  • improved policies and procedures.
  • shared responsibility for decisions.
  • improved staff morale.

Although recognition commits both parties to negotiate in good faith, it does not require agreement, nor does it give the union a veto over every employer proposal. Ultimately, recognition is as strong as the membership and union organisation at your school or college, i.e., the numbers, involvement and collective activity of the members themselves.

How can I go about seeking recognition for NEU?

The best and most common route to recognition is through reaching an agreement directly with an employer, known as voluntary recognition. Building a strong NEU presence within an employer is a necessary prerequisite to achieving voluntary recognition. Under a voluntary agreement, the issues to be consulted on and the rights conferred on reps and members are for agreement between the school and the staff.

The Employment Relations Act 1999 (ERA) introduced a mechanism for unions to petition for statutory recognition where employers are resistant. The procedure can be complicated and, even if successful, confers a limited range of rights when compared to voluntary recognition. It is recommended that the procedure only be considered on rare occasions and where part of a clear ongoing strategy towards achieving voluntary recognition.

The NEU would only consider invoking statutory recognition procedures in these very limited circumstances.

Model policies

Recognition model agreement for academies

The aim of this model agreement is to establish formal procedures for consultation and negotiation between academy trusts and unions, and to secure facilities for trade union representatives.

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