What the Employment Relations Act requires

A registered union's legal obligations

The Employment Relations Act (ERA) requires a union to be an incorporated society, to be independent of employers, and to have a set of rules that comply with the requirements of the ERA.

A union’s independence

A union must be independent of, and be constituted and operate at 'arm’s length' from, any employer.

We will examine applications for registration as a union to determine whether or not an applicant is independent of any employer. If it is not, we must decline to register it as a union.

Employer support for the formation and/or registration of a union will not, in itself, prevent registration. We will consider all relevant circumstances, including the nature and purpose of an employer’s support, and any employer influence over the nature or scope of the union's activities.

Union rules

A union's rules, or constitution, set out the union’s purpose, and how it will operate. Union rules will vary depending on the nature of the union. A large national union will need a far more complex set of rules than a small workplace-based union.

The ERA requires that a union's rules:

  • identify its object (purpose), or one of its objects, as ‘promoting members’ collective employment interests’.
  • are:
    • democratic
    • not unreasonable
    • not unfairly discriminatory or prejudicial
    • not contrary to law
  • contain provisions for holding a secret ballot.