Have I the right to join a union?

The law gives you freedom of choice to join a union or not, and to carry out union activities or use union services in your own time (or in work time where allowed). You are protected from being discriminated against on these grounds. This means that it would be unlawful to treat you less favourably on account of your union membership or non-membership, in the following circumstances:

  • on applying for employment;
  • during employment, e.g. consideration for promotion or training courses; and
  • on termination of employment, including selection for redundancy.

It is also unlawful to treat you less favourably because you have participated in lawful trade union activities, for example joining a campaign to support union recognition where you work. 

Dismissal relating to union membership or non-membership, is an automatically unfair dismissal for staff with 'employee' status, and other workers such as casual or agency workers can also bring a claim for detriment if work assignments are ended for this reason. Both employees and other workers are protected from detriment related to union membership or activities.

It is also unlawful to refuse to employ someone, dismiss them or treat them unfavourably in any way, or for an employment agency to refuse services, because someone’s name appears on a blacklist. A blacklist is a list of any length containing details of individuals who are or have been trade union members, or who have taken part in union activities. If you think your name may appear on a blacklist, you should contact your union as soon as possible.

A good source of information and support is the campaigning group known as the Blacklist Support Group, which is hosted by health and safety campaign organisation, Hazards.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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