The Union Learning Fund (ULF) was established in 1998 to promote activity by trade unions in support of the objective of creating a learning society. Its primary aim was to develop the capacity of trade unions and Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) to work with employers, employees and learning providers to encourage greater take up of learning in the workplace.

The Fund has supported more than 50 unions in over 700 workplaces and remains a flagship mainstream government programme – regarded as pivotal by unions, the Government, employers and partner organisations in the learning and skills world.

More recently, the Union Learning Fund has also proved a vital skills boost to workers through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government announced their intention to cease ULF funding from the end of March 2021 in a letter to the TUC.

The Union Learning Fund is currently worth £12 million and currently supports around 200,000 workers a year to access learning. The ULF is subject to regular independent evaluation. The most recent evaluation (2018) found:

Skills growth

  • 68% of learners with no previous qualifications got a qualification
  • 47% with entry or level 1 qualifications got a higher qualification
  • 80% said they gained skills that could transfer to a new job

Employer benefits

  • 53% of employers saw an increase in employees gaining qualifications
  • 77% said that union learning had a positive effect on their workplaces
  • 68% said unions could reach and inspire reluctant learners to engage in training

In a survey of 400 employers, with a total of 6 million employees, 87% said that they wanted to continue to support union learning, with two-thirds saying that it benefited the organisation and 81% saying it benefited the individual.

Value for money:

  • For every £1 spent on the Union Learning Fund:

o             workers gain £7.60 through better pay

o             employers gain £4.70 through higher productivity

o             the Exchequer gains £3.57 from welfare savings and revenue gains


The decision to scrap the ULF appears to be a purely political one, and it’s short sighted and wrong. Dozens of employers have already written to the Secretary of State for Education to urge him to rethink his decision.

Thankfully in Wales, the Welsh Labour Government have decided to keep the Union Learning Fund. You can find out more about the ULF here in Wales by clicking here:

The Labour Party along with the TUC and trade unions reaching across all sectors are campaigning to save the Union Learning Fund. Sign the petition here:

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