Certification Annual Report 2019-20

The Annual Report of the Certification Officer, Sarah Bedwell, was laid before Parliament today 9 July 2020. The report describes the work of the Certification Officer over the year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 and provides detailed information on all trade unions and employers’ associations. The statistical information it contains is drawn from the annual returns received during the reporting period, which relate mainly to the year ending 31 December 2018.

Trade Union membership and finances

• Figures reported to the Certification Officer show total trade union membership of 6,695,098. This is a decrease of 72,726 members or 1.07%. This continues the decrease in union membership for the tenth successive year. The 12 largest unions account for over four fifths of the total trade union membership (5.71 million members or 85.3%)

• The number of trade unions has also continued to decrease. There were 139 trade unions on the Certification Officer’s lists and schedules at the end of this reporting period, compared to 142 at the end of the previous period. Whilst three trade unions were added to the list, six were removed. At the end of this reporting period there were 85 employers’ associations. Five employers’ associations were removed from the list in this period. (Chapter 1).

• The total funds (net assets) of trade unions as reported in this period decreased by 1.2% to £2.27 million. The 12 largest unions, that each have membership in excess of 100,000 members, had average net assets of £1.05 million (Chapter 2, Appendix 4).

Information on Political Funds

• 21 Trade unions have Political Funds. Of these 15 reported detailed expenditures of over £2,000.

• The total sum contained in the political funds of the trade unions at the end of this period was £41million. This is up by 5 million, from £35 million the previous year. The largest political fund was that of Unite the Union, which was valued at around £18.74 million (Chapter 4 and Appendix 9).

Information on ballots held and industrial action taken

26 unions reported on ballots held and Industrial action taken. Of these 14 reported both, 11 reported holding ballots only and 1 reported industrial action only, with the ballot for this action held in the previous reporting period.


Over the past reporting year 29 complaints were determined. This compares to 46 complaints determined in the previous reporting year. Of these, 26 complaints alleged that a union had breached its own rules. The other 3 related to alleged breaches of statute. A summary of these decisions can be found in Chapter 5 of the report.


  1. The annual report of the Certification Officer for Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations was published and laid before Parliament on 9 July 2020. It is available on the Certification Office website: www.gov.uk/certificationofficer.

  2. The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, as amended, sets out the Certification Officer’s statutory responsibilities. Section 258 requires the Certification Officer to make an annual report on her activities to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and to the Chair of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). The report must be laid before Parliament and published.

  3. The Certification Officer is appointed by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and resourced through Acas, but is independent of any direction from Ministers or Acas. Sarah Bedwell was appointed to the post on 1 January 2018.

  4. The Certification Officer’s website contains every decision made by the Certification Officer since 1975. It contains all the annual returns from trade unions and employers associations since 2012, with links to The National Archives website for returns from between 2003 and 2012. It also contains guidance on various aspects of the Certification Officer’s functions, copies or links to Annual Reports going back to 2001-2002 and a list of trade unions and employers’ associations.

  5. The Certification Officer invites you to subscribe to his email service to receive notice of any new items posted to the website. Visit the website: www.gov.uk/certificationofficer, to subscribe.

  6. The Certification Officer has reported the following figures for trade union membership over the past 10 reporting years.

Certification Officer’sTU MembershipChanges from previous year
Reporting YearTU Membership%

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