In the United kingdom, an independent trade union is a trade union which is not under the domination or control of an employer and is independent from the employer financially.

The strict legal definition is contained in both the Employment Relations Act 1999 and the Trade Union And Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and defines an independent union as one that;

  • (a) is not under the domination or control of an employer or group of employers or of one or more employers' associations, and
  • (b) is not liable to interference by an employer or any such group or association (arising out of the provision of financial or material support or by any other means whatsoever) tending towards such control.

In practice it is the Certification Officer that decided whether or not a union is 'independent' and a certificate of independence issued by the Certification Officer is conclusive evidence for all purposes that the trade union concerned is 'independent'. Independence is important as it is only independent unions that are granted cerain legal rights and priviliges including, inter alia;

  • the right to a make statutory claim for recognition under the Schedule A1 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992
  • the right to certain information that employers must disclose to unions
  • the right of trades union officials to time off work to pursue union activities and duties

Based on information from ACAS at and also