Employment Relations Act 2004

The Employment Relations Act 2004 achieved Royal Assent on 16th September 2004. Measures contained in the Act came into force in stages between October 2004 and October 2005.

This page gives a summary of what is contained in the Act. The Explanatory Notes to the Act explains in more detail the effect of individual sections in the Act.

The Employment Relations Act 2004 is mainly concerned with collective labour law and trade union rights. It implements the findings of the review of the Employment Relations Act 1999, announced by the Secretary of State in July 2002.  The centrepiece of the 1999 Act was the establishment of a statutory procedure for the recognition of trade unions by employers for collective bargaining purposes.

The review concluded that the 1999 Act was working well.  However, it identified a number of areas where recognition procedures could be improved and trade union law modernised.

The review of the 1999 Act was conducted with close involvement of interested parties, and included a full public consultation on its draft conclusions and recommendations.  The Government’s response to that consultation exercise sets out the findings of the review of the 1999 Act and gives a detailed analysis of the policy behind the measures in the Employment Relations Act 2004.

Sections 37 and 38 (Role of the companion at disciplinary or grievance hearings; Extension of jurisdiction at EAT) and sections 29 to 32 (Inducements and detriments in respect of membership etc of independent trade unions) came into force on 1 October 2004.

Sections 33 and 34 (The law governing the ability of trade unions to exclude or expel individuals wholly or mainly for taking part in activities of a political party) and Sections 15, 18, 36, 39 and 54 (Various enabling powers covering aspects of employment and trade union law) came into force on 31 December 2004.

On the 6 April 2005 the bulk of the Act’s remaining provisions came into force. Namely, those provisions that had not already been commenced in the 1st and 2nd Commencement Orders. The exception to this was those five provisions that were dependent on the adoption of the Code of Practice on Access and Unfair Practices During Recognition Ballots (sections 9, 10, 13) and the Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers (sections 22 and 25). Explanatory note.

Both the Code of Practice on Access and Unfair Practices During Recognition Ballots, and the Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers, were approved by Parliament in July 2005. Thus, on 1 October 2005, the Government bought into affect both Codes of Practice, and the last five remaining sections of the Act (sections 9, 10, 13, 22, and 25).