Certification Officer Annual Report 2020-21

The Annual Report of the Certification Officer, Sarah Bedwell, was laid before Parliament today 8 July 2021. The report describes the work of the Certification Officer over the year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 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 2019.

Trade Union membership and finances

• Figures reported to the Certification Officer show total trade union membership of 6,666,482. This is a decrease of 28,616 members or 0.43% from the previous year. This continues the decrease in union membership, as reported to the Certification Officer, for the tenth successive year. It is important to note that 12 unions have not yet submitted their returns due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. These 12 unions reported a combined membership of 8,000 in the previous year. Their membership has not been included in the total membership. The 12 largest unions account for over four fifths of the total trade union membership (5.68 million members)

• There were 141 trade unions on the Certification Officer’s lists and schedules at the end of this reporting period, compared to 139 at the end of the previous period. Whilst four trade unions were added to the list, two were also removed. At the end of this reporting period there were 84 employers’ associations. One employers’ association was removed from the list in this period. (Chapter 1).

• The total assets of trade unions as reported in this period increased by 0.17% to £2,449.69 million. The 12 largest unions, that each have membership in excess of 100,000 members, had average total assets of £1.58 million (Chapter 2, Appendix 3).

Information on Political Funds

• 21 Trade unions have Political Funds.

• The total sum contained in the political funds of the trade unions at the end of this period was £41.87million. This is up by £0.52 million, from £41.35 million the previous year. The largest political fund was that of Unison, which was valued at around £16.49 million (Chapter 4 and Appendix 6).

Information on ballots held and industrial action taken

24 unions reported on ballots held and Industrial action taken. Of these 17 reported both ballots and industrial action, six reported holding ballots only and one reported industrial action only.


10 applications were determined during the year. Of these eight related to a breach of rule and consisted of 32 separate complaints. Two related to a breach of statute consisting of two complaints. A summary of these decisions can be found in Chapter 6 of the report.

Operational Plan

This is the first year that the Certification Officer’s annual report has set out the office’s performance against the targets in our operational plan. See chapter 7 of the report for the office’s performance against the targets and key performance objectives.

We published our operational plan for the first time in 2020 as part of our programme of increasing the openness, transparency and accountability of the Office. The Operational Plan for 2020/21 can be found on our website.


  1. The annual report of the Certification Officer for Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations was published and laid before Parliament on 8 July 2021. 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. These figures reflect union membership as reported in the annual returns to her office.

YearTU MembershipChanges from previous year%

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