You can ask our online solicitors for advice on collective agreements using the question box on the front of our website or the following free legal advice guide may answer your questions.
You may have come across the term collective agreement while you’re at work and you don’t really know what it means or what the implications of it may be. A collective agreement is something that is negotiated between an employer and a trade union and relates to terms of employment and wage rates.
It is often argued in the UK that collective agreements are unenforceable, but they are still important because many workplaces use them. In this guide we will explore how these agreements are used in law and how the terms of these agreements are often incorporated into a contract of employment.
There are lots of occupations that are covered by a trade union of some sort, the police for example. In the police, terms and conditions of employment fall under the Police Regulations and Home Secretary Determinations and all police forces must comply with these guidelines. Additional terms can be added at a local level depending on the specific requirements of the force.
For many forces throughout the UK they will comply with national guidelines which state the main terms and conditions of employment. A force which does not subscribe to the national agreements can undertake their own collective agreements and negotiations.
Employers and employees have obligations when collective agreements are implemented whether in the police or any other workforce.
Employers have a duty to:
- Inform employees of any agreements that have a direct impact on their terms and conditions of employment
- Implicitly incorporate the terms of the agreement into an employment contract
- Ensure that incorporated terms are not amended unilaterally even if the agreement has been terminated
Employees have a duty to:
- Recognise that the agreement may directly impact their terms and conditions of employment even if they are not a member of a trade union
- Understand that a term of a collective agreement may mean unlawful discrimination
- Realise that collective agreement terms could be incorporated into any employment contract and they may appear either implicitly or expressly
A collective agreement is an arrangement between a trade union and employers, or their associations and it can relate to any of the following areas:
- Employment terms and conditions or the environment in which employees are expected to work
- How employees are appointed, terminated or suspended from employment or their duties
- How work or duties are allocated
- Discipline in the workplace
- Membership or non-membership of a Trade Union
- Negotiations or consultations in relation to any of the above issues
As we have mentioned briefly, the terms of an agreement may appear in an employment contract as either an implicit or express way. When they are used, employers are legally obliged to notify employees of any collective agreements. If a contract of employment does not make any reference to a collective agreement, it can be possible to incorporate certain terms into the contract. The way this is achieved will depend on the intention of the parties involved, their practices and conduct.
Working Time Regulations 1998
- A collective agreement offers one way that waivers or derogations under the Working Time Directive can be used in the workplace. Typical waivers include:
- The extension of the normal 17 week reference period to 52 weeks
- The determination of a definition in relation to work undertaken at night
- How rest periods are determined
- If a TUPE transfer has taken place, a new employer may be able to terminate a collective agreement if they would like to, but this may result in an automatic request for statutory trade union recognition.
Collective agreement terms could include many things such as:
- How negotiations about employees will take place
- Who will actively represent employees?
- Which members of the workforce are covered by the collective agreement?
- The specific terms and conditions that the collective agreement will cover
When you begin any new employment, you should always check whether a collective agreement is in place and if it is, what type of agreement exists. The information contained within the collective agreement, particularly in relation to your rights and benefits at work often prove valuable.
If used properly they can safeguard your rights and help maintain standards in relation to working conditions and pay and they can also prove useful when issues surrounding working hours, sick pay holiday bonuses, maternity leave and on call allowances arise.