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Working Effectively with Trade Unions


Rising UK union membership, changes in post-Brexit demographics, the impact of Covid on legislation and the current cost-of-living crisis all mean that organisations need to understand their position in the new landscape. With proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act and almost equal activism by blue-collar and white-collar employees, it is essential that organisations’ union relationships are both legal and workable.

The programme content can be adapted to meet your specific organisational challenges and training needs. The course runs for approximately 6.5 hours and can be adapted for a briefing or half-day session. 

This training programme will examine how employers can engage worried and disaffected staff, how organisations can optimise union relations in the current uncertain climate and how to effectively resolve internal and external disputes.

Learning Outcomes 

By the end of the programme you will:

  • Understand how you can replace confrontation with constructive dialogue
  • Be aware of how unions are building awareness of their existence among employees
  • Have a sound understanding of the latest UK legislation regarding unions

Course Overview

The changing face of the Trade Unions - what does rising UK union membership mean for employers; why new types of unions are developing; the impact of unions becoming more visible, relevant and powerful; why activism and organising is now almost equal for blue-collar and white-collar workers; how to accommodate the new type of union in your workplace.

The growing voice - how unions are building awareness of their existence among employees; how unions campaign to share information and ensure employee voices are heard; the role of social media in the new wave of Union membership, the role of the cost-of-living crisis in unionising Britain's workers.

Legal framework affecting negotiations - The difference between recognition, collective and national agreements; the legal framework; how a collective agreement works; the formalities required to make a collective agreement; how collective bargaining works in practice; dealing with disputes; preparing your employees and representatives for negotiation.

Understanding engagement and option-based negotiations – a snapshot of National policies; industrial and employee relations in the UK; the differences between trade unions and staff forums; legacies and challenges of the cost-of-living crisis; understanding the relationship and links between the “corporate” trade union, regional officers and workplace representatives; understanding perspectives and ideology.

5 key steps to engagement - how do trade unions support increased employee engagement; consultation vs negotiation; what does good practice look like; option-based negotiation as a tool for organisational change.

Engaging behaviours - Identifying what consultative behaviours are for all parties - assertiveness and clear communication; understanding the behaviours that disengage; the psychology of negotiations - human nature and achieving conscious inclusion: how it informs the different roles in a negotiation.

Strategies to optimise communications with your trade unions - effectively leveraging the 15 strategic questions; minimising rumour and conspiracy theories; preparation for difficult discussions; encouraging professional counter-proposals; producing high-quality communication; encouraging innovation from the shop floor.

Identifying and overcoming barriers to high quality communication - ensuring all communication is factual and consistent; the role of social media and informal industrial action; how social platforms can create momentum; essential tools for monitoring, countering, managing and influencing social media challenges.

Delegate feedback 

"Great session, really enjoyed how you encouraged the conversation to get us all thinking about some practical actions that we need to do to take this forward.  The discussion re the different models of negotiation was also really useful and a great refresher.  Thank you"

“A guided conversation where we can ask those tricky questions.”

"Really good pace and level of information, interspersed with relevant activities.  Good involvement opportunities for all participants"

"I think there is strong value in reinforcing the preparation required prior to negotiations."

"Great session, learnt so much and so useful to bring our group together.  Enjoyed the collaboration towards the end"

"Really useful session.  Great conversations, great facilitation. Thank you"

"The case studies and feedback sessions were particularly relevant to my situation. There was excellent value provided from the experience of the presenter being able to look at individual situations and provide ways to manage these."

“The training was like gold. Having a safe environment to talk with an expert is invaluable. An informal space to ask all the questions you need answers to when don’t know who to ask.”

Make an in-house training enquiry 

Click here to fill in our enquiry form or to have a confidential discussion about your requirements, please contact Catherine Ouston our Head of In-house Training on 01983 861133 or email

Book a 15-minute consultation with our course designer

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Let us provide your employees with the tools, skills and mindset they need to meet today's HR challenges. In-house courses to suit your budget and learning objectives.

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