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Union recognition means an acknowledgement by the employer that a union has the right to represent and/or negotiate on behalf of its members in the workforce in a variety of situations. 

Many employers are prepared to recognise unions where there is significant support among the workforce. 

It is best to invite the union's full-time official to approach the employer. The involvement of Acas through their conciliation service may be helpful. Acas has some specialist conciliators who focus on collective workplace issues, including union recognition. 

If the employer agrees to recognise the union there will usually be a collective agreement setting out: 

  • which categories or grades of worker are covered; 
  • how union representatives (for example,  shop stewards) are to be elected; 
  • what matters ( such as pay and hours) the parties can negotiate about; and 
  • what union facilities are available (for example, office space, use of telephones and time off) are available. 

If the employer refuses to recognise a union and there is sufficient support, the union may ask the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to investigate with a view to requiring the employer to recognise it under the Employment Relations Act 1999 through a process known as 'statutory recognition'. 

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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