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Fairness at Work

Key messages

The White Paper follows on from other measures already introduced by the Government, including the reintroduction of TU rights at GCHQ, the signing of the Social Chapter, introduction of the Working Time Directive and the National Minimum Wage.

* This is Labour's comprehensive package for Fairness at Work which the Tories would never have delivered.

* The central objective is to support a new culture of partnership at work; a culture of co-operation which is evident already in many successful modem companies.

* The current law cuts across that objective. This White Paper sets out a balanced framework of workable and practical measures for the future.

* It addresses new patterns of work and the need to develop family-friendly employment practices, and contains a balance of individual and collective rights.

Its focus is on developing good practice, and on a voluntary approach which builds on the basis offered by the best. this context it is a framework for dispute resolution.

The White Paper is a settlement for this Parliament because employers and employees need to know what to expect; they need stability.

Fairness at work

May 1998

The Proposals

The white Paper proposes a framework for strong partnerships at work. It aims to establish a culture of fairness in all workplaces to underpin competitiveness. The Paper is not just about trade union recognition. The proposals cover: new rights for individuals; collective rights; and family-friendly policies.

New Rights for Individuals:

The Government proposes to:

* reduce to one year the qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal (currently two years) (paragraph 3. 1 0);

* abolish the maximum limit on awards for unfair dismissal (paragraph 3.5);

* introduce legislation to index-!* limits on statutory awards and payments, subject to a maximum rate (paragraph 3.8).

Views are invited on:

whether the limits on additional and special awards should be retained, or tribunals should be able to award aggravated damages (paragraph 3.7)

its options for changing the law which allows employees with fixed term contracts to waive their right to unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy payments (paragraphs 3.13)

whether further action should be taken to address the potential abuse of zero hours contracts and', if so, how to take this forward without undermining labour market flexibility (paragraph 3.16)

whether legislation should be introduced to extend the coverage of some or all existing employment rights, by regulation to all those who work for another person (paragraph 3.18)

New Collective Rights:

The Government proposes to:

enable employees to have a trade union recognised by their employer where the majority of the relevant workforce wishes it. Statutory procedures for both recognition and derecognition win be introduced (paragraph 4.1 1).

* change the law in line with its belief that in general those dismissed for taking part in lawfully organised official industrial action should have the right to complain to a tribunal of unfair dismissal (paragraph 4.22)

* make it unlawful to discriminate by omission on grounds of trade union membership, non - membership or activities (paragraph 4.25).

* prohibit black - listing of trade unionists (paragraph 4.25)

amend the law on industrial action ballots and notice to make clear that, while the union's notice to the employer should still identify as accurately as reasonably practicable the group or category of employees concerned, it need not give names (paragraph 4.27).

* create a legal right for employees to be accompanied by a fellow employee or trade union representative of their choice during grievance and disciplinary procedures (paragraph 4.29).

* abolish the Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members (CRTUM) and the Commissioner for Protection Against Unlawful Industrial Action (CPAUIA) and give new powers to the Certification Officer (CO) to hear complaints involving most aspects of the' law where CRTUM is currently empowered to provide assistance (paragraph 4.3 1)

* make funds available to contribute to the training of managers and employee representatives in order to assist and develop partnerships at work (paragraph 2.7).

Views are invited on:

whether should be among the matters automatically covered by an award on trade union recognition (paragraph 4.18)

* how a procedure for de - recognition should work (paragraph 4.18)

how protection against dismissal for those taking part in lawfully organised industrial action should be implemented (paragraph 4.23)

Family Friendly Policies:

Government proposes to:

extend maternity leave to 18 weeks, to align it with maternity pay (paragraph 5.14).

* give employees rights to extended maternity absence and to parental leave after one year's service (paragraph 5. 19)

* provide for the contract of employment to continue during the whole period of maternity or parental leave, unless it is expressly terminated by either party, by dismissal or resignation (paragraph 5.2 1).

* provide sin-War rights for employees to return to their jobs after parental leave as currently apply after maternity absence (paragraph 5.22).

provide three months parental leave for adoptive parents (paragraph5.23).

* provide a right to reasonable time-off for family emergencies, which will apply to all employees regardless of length of service (paragraph 5.28).

* ensure that employees are protected against dismissal or detriment if they exercise their rights to parental leave and time off for urgent family reasons (paragraph 5.29).

Views are invited on:

Simple notice of maternity leave (paragraph 5. 17)

* its options for framing legislation to comply with the Parental Leave Directive (paragraph 5.16)

* the particular difficulties small firms might face in complying with the Directive on parental leave (paragraph 5.26)

Fairness at work

May 1998

Trade Union Recognition

The White Paper sets out a procedure for resolving disputes about trade union recognition. The procedure will apply to organisations with more than 20 employees. The key elements of the procedure are:

* primacy for voluntary agreement at all stages - the law is the last resort,

* ACAS will help to resolve disputes if the parties wish;

* where negotiations fail, there will be a legally based procedure, with time limits and reasonable penalties for failure to comply, operated by a restructured and reinforced Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to which a union seeking recognition can apply;

* the union will propose the bargaining unit; if the employer thinks it is not suitable, the CAC will decide the appropriate unit taking account of the need for effective management and other criteria;

* the union will have to demonstrate that it has reasonable support among the employees for whom it is seeking recognition - and in the bargaining unit decided by the CAC if that is different; the CAC will not proceed with frivolous applications;

* the CAC will award recognition if in a ballot a majority and at least 40% of those eligible to vote support recognition; the ballot will be independently supervised, like industrial action ballots. It may be carried out at the workplace if the scrutiniser is satisfied that it can be carried out fairly. Otherwise it must be postal. The cost of the ballot will be split equally between employer and union. The 40% will be reviewed and altered if it is shown to be unworkable;

* the CAC will also award recognition automatically (i.e. without a ballot) if a majority of the employees in the bargaining unit are members of the trade union seeking recognition;

* a trade union seeking recognition will have a right to reasonable access to the workers concerned to campaign for recognition; ACAS may be asked to draw up a Code of Practice on what is 'reasonable access'; workers will be protected against detriment for campaigning for or against recognition.

* where recognition has been granted by an employer or awarded by the CAC, a union can apply to the CAC to impose a legally binding procedure agreement setting out how the parties are to bargain. (The duty will be only to bargain - not to reach agreement.) Bargaining will cover pay, hours and holidays as a minimum. The Government invites views on whether it should also cover training;

* there will be a similar procedure for derecognition. The Government invites views on how this should work.

Fairness at work

May 1998

Family friendly policies

Family-friendly employment policies are good for business and parents. They support the culture of partnership growing in our most successful companies. Central to this culture of co-operation is a balance between family and work responsibilities.

Family-friendly practices benefit all involved. They help parents better balance work and family life. Modem, competitive companies benefit from committed and productive employees, and from ensuring that vital skills and experience are not lost to the labour market.

The White Paper will:

* extend maternity leave to 18 weeks, bringing it into line with maternity pay

* give rights to extended maternity absence and to parental leave after one year's service

provide similar rights of return after parental leave to those which apply after maternity absence are given a right to reasonable time-off for family emergencies regardless of length of service

The Government is taking positive action to support this new culture of partnership at work. Measures include:

* the Working Time Regulations and Young Workers Directives

* the Part-Time Work and Parental Leave Directives

* the National Minimum Wage

hese will help parents and employers combine new patterns of work, underpinning the voluntary approach of the best companies with a statutory framework

Fairness at work.

May 1998

Labour is already delivering

The Fairness at work White Paper sets out the government's comprehensive strategy for industrial relations for this Parliament. This is a Labour agenda which the Tories would never deliver. In one year the DTI under Margaret Beckett is already honouring our manifesto commitments to restore a fair balance between the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. Measures include:

The Fairness at work White Paper

* The White Paper proposes a framework for strong partnerships at work. It aims to establish a culture of fairness in all workplaces to underpin competitiveness. The Paper is not just about trade union recognition. New rights are included to reflect the fact that the nature of work has changed. New policies will also help enhance family life. The key proposals include:

* Reduction of the queuing period for protection against unfair dismissal to one year.

* Abolition of the maximum limit on awards for unfair dismissal and introduction of legislation to index limits on statutory awards and payments, subject to a maximum rate.

* Introduction of statutory procedures to enable employees to have a trade union recognised by their employer where the majority of the relevant workforce wish it.

* A right for employees to complain of unfair dismissal if dismissed for taking part in official action organised within the law.

* Making it illegal to discriminate by omission on grounds of trade union membership, non membership or activities. The blacklisting of trade unionists is also prohibited.

* Amending the law on industrial action ballots and notice so that unions need not disclose names.

* Consultation on whether and how to improve the legal protection for 'zero hours' employees.

* Rights to extended maternity absence and parental leave after one year's service.

* Provision of a right to reasonable time off for family emergencies for all workers regardless of length of service.

* Extension of maternity leave to 18 weeks, aligning it with maternity pay.

A National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage Bill should gain Royal Assent by the summer. The minimum wage will be applied at the same rate nationwide putting an end to poverty pay.;

The Low Pay Commission, established immediately after the election, will report to the government by the end of May its recommendation on the rate the wage should be set at.

Trade Union Rights at GCHQ

The ban on effective Trade Union rights at GCHQ has been overturned. The government achieved this restoration of union rights within 13 days of coming to power.

Signed the Social Chapter

The government adopted the Social Chapter at the first European Council after the general election.

European Works Council Directive

* This Social Chapter Directive establishes minimum standards for informing and consulting employees in multi-national companies at the European level. Many modem companies already operate this best practice, which was denied to all workers by the Tories. Employees in firms of over 1,000 people with 1 50 in each of at least two countries will now be consulted on management decisions, which may be taken far away from them.

* The Directive was extended to the UK in December last year and will come into effect by December next year.

Parental Leave Directive

This second Social Chapter Directive guarantees three months leave for men and women when they have a baby or adopt a child, plus protection from dismissal for exercising this right. Time off for urgent family reasons is also guaranteed.

The Directive was formally applied to the UK last December and will be implemented by the end of next year.

Working Time Directive

* Draft regulations have been published for the implementation of the Working Time Directive. The government aims to have the regulations in place by 1 October this year. The measures include:

* A limit of 48 hours on the average time which employees can be required to work, except by voluntary agreement.

* Entitlement to 11 hours consecutive rest per day.

* Entitlement to one day off each week.

* A limit of an average 8 hours in each 24 hour period for night workers.

* Entitlement to a minimum 20 minute rest break if the working day is longer than 6 hours.

* Entitlement to three weeks paid annual leave (rising to 4 weeks from November 1999).

Young Workers Directive

* The Young Workers Directive provides similar but tighter provisions on working time for employees under 1 8 years old. Implementation will begin by 1 October this year.

* Measures include: entitlement to two days off each week; entitlement to 12 hours consecutive rest each day; and a minimum 30 minute rest break if an adolescent works for longer than 42 hours.

Part Time Work Directive

The Part Time Work Directive was extended to the UK at a European Council in April - the first meeting possible. Part-timers will have statutory entitlements to paid holidays and occupational pensions, benefits such as staff discounts and bonus schemes, and

opportunities for promotion, the same as full-time workers.

Better treatment for part-timers will make part-time jobs more attractive and promote flexible labour markets.

Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act

The government gave its full support to this Private Peer's Bill which improves and streamlines the procedures of industrial tribunals. The use of internal procedures is encouraged and a new voluntary arbitration scheme, developed by ACAS, is being established to settle unfair dismissal claims.

This is an excellent example of partnership between employers and trade unions.

"Whistleblowing" Bill

The government is promoting individual rights by supporting the Private Member's Bill on public interest disclosure - or "whistleblowing". This should receive Royal Assent by the summer.

The Bill will provide protection against dismissal or victimisation for employees who responsibly raise concerns about criminal offences, failures to meet legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, and dangers to health, safety or the environment.

'Check-off' rules being repealed

Legislation passed by the Tories requires employees to re-authorise deductions from their pay for union subscriptions every three years. The government is ditching this burdensome regulation.

Proposals to repeal the law were laid before Parliament in December. The deregulation order should come into force before the summer.

Rights for workers when companies change hands

The government is d6nducting a full review of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations and the EU Acquired Rights Directive. These give employees the right to be consulted through representatives in the event of a collective redundancy or the transfer of a business undertaking between employers.

The government's amendments include removing the present option for employers to bypass recognised unions and inform and consult other representatives instead.

And more achievements on employment....

Introduced 3.5 billion New Deal welfare-to-work programme to get 250,000 long-term unemployed young people back to work; Established new Employment Zones; Secured Employment Chapter in the EU Amsterdam treaty; Introduced new tax credits in the budget to help working families, Launched a national childcare strategy; Established Individual Learning Accounts for skills training; Replaced the Youth Training Scheme with

Target 2000 training programme.

Fairness at Work

 

May 1998

Question and Answer Brief

Ql. Is this a bad package for the unions?

No. The package of measures included in the Fairness at Work white Paper - which goes far beyond just union recognition - reflects the Government's determination to develop a new culture in all of British business which builds on the normal practice of many existing businesses. The combination of legislative changes and plans for consultation included in the white Paper is the Government's settlement on employee rights for this Parliament. They form a framework of workable and practical legislation on union recognition; a reduction in the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to one year; better rights for those dismissed whilst involved in lawfully organised industrial action; and a range of other measures.

Q2. Why has the figure of 40% been chosen?

The Government's objective in framing the legislation for union recognition is two-fold. First, that the legislation should form workable law as a framework within which a new culture can develop and in which sustainable relationships for collective bargaining can be achieved. Second, that the law should be the final port of call in what is a voluntary process. The Government has rejected a minimum turnout threshold which would give incentives to people to abstain.

To achieve recognition a union will need to demonstrate clear support at a workplace. A union will be recognised when it wins the support at a workplace. A union will be recognised when it wins the support of forty per cent of a workforce in a ballot or a majority of a workforce becomes members. The reason for this is twofold. First, without real and substantial support amongst employees, collective bargaining simply will not work. Second, since collective bargaining has an input on all employees, it is right that it should only be granted where substantial support is demonstrated.

Q3. Why will small firms be exempted from statutory trade union recognition?

Many small companies recognise trade unions already. Many do not. In many small' firms, often run as family firms, relations with staff are often dealt with informally and personally. In these circumstances the Government believes it would be inappropriate to bring them into the scope of the new law; it will not apply to firms with 20 or fewer employees.

Q4. Isn't the 40% figure anti-union (and pro-CBI), and not what the manifesto said?

The recognition process should be viewed as a whole. The manifesto pledge was to deliver workable legislation around a simple majority of the relevant workforce. The Government is keen that any process should deliver sustainable collective bargaining. The bargaining unit will be defined in the first instance by the trade union, subject to a set of criteria. Union recognition is automatic where over half the workforce are already union members. There is no formal trigger required for a ballot to take place, although frivolous claims will be avoided. There is also a new right to be represented by a trade

union representative, a rig ht that applies in all sizes of firm with or without union

recognition. Taken together, the measures in the White Paper represent a balanced package which delivers on our promises.

Q5. Now will the recognition process actually work?

The Government's aim is that recognition will usually result from voluntary agreement between the trade union and the relevant employer. Where such voluntary agreement is not possible, the trade union will in the first instance discuss with the Central Arbitration Committee its ambition to be recognised and will establish agreement around the bargaining unit which it seeks to represent as well as the level of existing support for recognition. If 50% of the bargaining unit are trade union members recognition will be automatic without a ballot. If the level of support seems satisfactory to the CAC, so that the claim is not frivolous the process will proceed to a ballot where the trade union will need to secure the simple majority of those voting with a minimum 40% yes vote.

Q6. What is in the Fairness at Work White Paper apart from recognition?

The Fairness at Work White Paper contains a range of proposals and issues for consultation around new rights for employees either as individuals or in groups and family-friendly policies. The Government proposes to:

* abolish the maximum limit on awards for unfair dismissal;

* introduce legislation to link limits on statutory awards and payments subject to a maximum rate.,

* reduce the qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal to one year;

Make funds available to contribute to the training of managers and employee representatives in order to assist and develop partnerships at work;

give greater rights to employees to complain of unfair dismissal if they are dismissed for taking part in official industrial action organised within the law;

Make it unlawful to discriminate by omission on grounds, of trade union membership or activities;

* prohibit the blacklisting of trade unionists;

* create a legal right for employees to be accompanied by a fellow employee or trade union representative during grievance and disciplinary procedures;

* extend maternity leave to 18 weeks to align it with maternity pay;

* give employees rights to extend maternity absence and parental leave after 1 year's service;

* provide 3 months parental leave for adoptive parents.

Q7. Why hasn't the Government repealed all the 1980s anti-union legislation?

The Fairness at work White Paper takes forward our manifesto commitment on employee rights at work. It looks forward not backwards. While it mitigates the most damaging aspects of the 1980s legislation, as was made clear in the manifesto, the Government is pledged not to reverse all of that legislation.

QS. Why haven't you gone further and implemented other outstanding policy pledges e.g. rights from day one?

The Fairness at Work White Paper takes forward the manifesto pledges on employee rights. Its objective is to lay out the changes in these areas which are envisaged for this Parliament. It covers a wide range of areas, addressing issues where there is a pressing need for change, either directly through legislative initiatives or in a more consultative fashion asking for views before pursuing any one option.

Q9. Why are you promoting recognition, what are the benefits of

enhancing rights at work - in reality isn't this just a lot of burdens on business?

The Government's, strongly held opinion is that changes in these areas are matters both of basic right and of sound economics. The very best companies already employ a range of practices in relation to their employees which reflect their understanding that companies will always do better if they go forward by building on the shared enthusiasm and commitment of all of their employees. Industrial conflict is in no one's interest. The Government's objective in laying out this framework of rights is to achieve a cultural change at work whereby the best practice in place now, becomes normal practice for everyone.

Q10. Who won this battle - the TUC or the CBI?

The TUC and CBI have worked hard to identify areas where they felt able to agree, in particular on recognition. Their discussions which achieved a great deal of common ground - perhaps more than many would have expected - form the backbone of the White Paper. In other areas where agreement was not possible the Governments has taken a view on what is the most practical and workable solution. This White Paper is not about winners or losers. It is about establishing a culture of shared endeavour in Britain's workplaces which will enable our companies to be the best in the world. It is good for employers and good for employees. It is the right package for the nation. When we get the balance right we all win.