date: 26 January 1999 embargo: 00:01 hours January 28 Trades Union Congress Attention: Industrial, political, newsdesks 3 pages TUC hails Fairness at Work The Fairness at Work Bill, likely to be published later today, has been welcomed by TUC General Secretary, John Monks. He said:
"This is the most significant advance in employee rights for a generation. There can be no doubt that the bill to be published later today represents a significant shift in power away from the over-mighty employer to the employee - giving a real boost to the partnership at work that is the real secret of competitive success.
"In particular today's Bill shows how right unions have been to press for new employee rights at the European level. The substantial new rights to Parental Leave, equality for part timers and other family friendly employment measures largely flow from European negotiations between unions and employers under the social chapter. New rights for the growing numbers on fixed term contracts are now in the pipeline following recent agreement between unions and employers at the European level.
"Of course the Bill does not go as far as we would like. And we are worried that concessions given to employer lobbying may lead to unnecessary legal action and openings for US-style union busting consultants. But these disappointments should not distract from the historic gain for people at work that this Bill represents."
Either attached - or available from the TUC - is a background briefing on the likely contents of the Bill.
|Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen on 020 7467 1248 or 01399 744115 (pager)|
Trades Union Congress Fairness at Work Bill Background briefing January 1999 Fairness at Work - what the bill is likely to say Background Later today the Government is likely to publish the Fairness at Work Bill. This briefing sets out what the TUC expects the main points of the Bill to be but is issued on a background basis for guidance only.
Family friendly employment This remains unchanged from the White Paper and is largely the incorporation into UK law of European obligations under the social chapter.
. up to three months unpaid parental leave for both mothers and fathers to be taken while the child is under 8. This can be taken as odd days or blocks at any time from birth to the eight birthday. It will extend to adoptive parents.
. Time off for family emergencies - this is likely to include caring responsibilities other than children such as elderly dependants.
. Tidying up and improving maternity arrangements. At present new mothers are entitled to 18 weeks maternity pay but only 14 weeks maternity leave. Leave will be extended to 18 weeks. The longer period will be available after one year's service rather than two and there will be better protection for women returning to work after maternity leave - for example if they are sick and need extra time off.
There will be three routes to recognition - voluntary, by ballot and automatic.
The voluntary route will be as now, but both the TUC and CBI believe that the presence of alternative statutory routes will encourage voluntary agreements.
The ballot route is unchanged from the White Paper except that the union will now have to
show 10% membership in the bargaining unit to trigger a ballot. The union will have to win both a majority in the ballot and get yes votes from at least 40% of those eligible to vote. If there is disagreement about the bargaining unit this will be resolved by the Central Arbitration Committee - a currently existing though little known body which will be given the job of implementing the recognition section of the new law.
The automatic route will depend on the union demonstrating 50%+1 membership in the bargaining unit. In a change from the White Paper the government has now given the CAC new discretion to order a ballot instead if it believes that recognition is 'not in the interest of good industrial relations' or if it believes union members do not want the union to collectively bargain on their behalf.
Instead the presumption will be that recognition will be automatic unless the CAC believes that automatic recognition will not be conducive to sustainable and good industrial relations or if they think that union members do not want the union to bargain for them. In these circumstances the CAC can order a ballot instead. These powers will be at the "sole discretion" of the CAC in an attempt to minimise legal challenges.
Once recognition has been granted employers will need to negotiate at a minimum pay, holidays and hours. Training will be subject to consultation.
Dismissal of those involved in industrial action The government is to make the dismissal of people taking industrial action automatically unfair for the first 8 weeks of a dispute. At present as long as the employer sacks everyone taking action, it is perfectly legal.
After 8 weeks the dismissal will only be unfair if the employer has not taken all reasonable steps to settle the dispute.
Grievance and Disciplinary Representation Employees will be eligible for representation by union officers in disciplinary hearings and serious grievances involving potential breaches of statutory, contractual or common law rights. While the TUC has always recognised that for grievances there needed to be codes of practice, clear procedures and that repetitive representation on trivial issues would not be acceptable, we are concerned that this has been drawn too narrowly - for example it does not appear to cover discrimination on grounds of age - and that there is no obligation on employers to have grievance procedures.
Unfair dismissal The cap on unfair dismissal awards is to be raised from £12,000 to £50,000. (The White Paper
said it would be abolished.) The qualifying period is to be reduced from two years to one, although it is possible that the Government will do this through regulations rather than include it in the Bill.
Waiver clauses Employers will not be able to make employees sign away rights to protection against unfair dismissal in contracts of employment.
Protection for union members Union members will be protected against discrimination by blacklisting when applying for jobs and if they refuse to opt out of collectively bargained terms and conditions.
Industrial Action Ballots While ballots will remain untouched there are to be a number of changes that will protect the privacy of union members, simplify ballot procedures and allow negotiations to continue beyond the 28 day 'expiry date' on industrial action ballots when both sides agree.
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