A leading business group has pressed for changes to trade union laws, including allowing employers to offer pay settlements directly to workers to resolve long running disputes.

The CBI said current rules affecting unions had hardly been changed since the 1980s, when industrial relations were “very different.”

The laws too often empowered union leaders at the expense of employees, said the business organisation.

Deputy director general Neil Bentley said a “whole new approach” was needed on how to engage with workers.

He will tell a conference that changes were needed to “modernise and democratise” trade union law, including having statements from employers as well as unions on ballot papers during disputes, and spelling out the consequences of any industrial action.

Firms should also be allowed to offer pay settlements directly to their staff rather than having to go through union representatives where they were “obstructing” a reasonable deal, said Dr Bentley.

“These changes are simple, and would underpin positive improvements in the way that employers, unions and employees work together, leading to closer co-operation and engagement.

“Like the changes of behaviour the new employment relationship requires of employers, they will put the ordinary member in charge.”