Women win on call battle
Nine women wardens have won a legal battle that could have
major implications for people who are forced to remain on
standby after completing their hours of work. The staff
lived in sheltered homes for the elderly in the London borough
of Harrow and worked a basic 37-hour week - but they were
kept on call for another 76 hours. An employment tribunal
said the council had breached working time regulations and
awarded the women £1,500 compensation each. The tribunal
said the council had not given the women proper daily rest
or given them the national minimum wage for their time on
standby. It decided the 76 hours the workers were on call
counted as work and as a result the women are also likely
to get back pay worth running into thousands of pounds each.
Temporary Agency Workers Directive Update
Almost 1 million British workers look set to remain second-class
employees thanks to a government decision to block European
legislation intended to extend rights for temporary and
agency staff. The Temporary Agency Workers Directive would
have ensured that temporary and agency staff received the
same pay and conditions as permanent workers. However, Britain
rejected the package amid disputes over the "qualifying
period". The European Parliament had recommended that rights
apply from day one but conceded that Britain be afforded
the option of a 5-week qualifying period. However, the British
Government had demanded a 9-to-12 month qualifying period
for temporary staff and failure to reach agreement on this
point was enough to block the adoption of the Temporary
Agency Workers Directive.
The P&I Team is currently working on a negotiating
guide for temp/agency workers. If you have any examples
of local problems please contact Ahrlene Ferguson in the
P&I Team on 0141 342 2819
Amendment of Working Time Regulations
The Working Time Regulations were amended, with effect
from 1 August 2003, to extend working time measures in full
to all non mobile workers in road, sea, inland waterways
and lake transport and to all workers in the railway and
offshore sectors. The basic rights and protections that
the Regulations provide are:
- a limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker
can be required to work (though workers can choose to
work more if they want to).
- a limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which night-workers
can be required to work.
- a right for night workers to receive free health assessments.
- a right to 11 hours rest a day.
- a right to an in-work rest break if the working day
is longer than six hours.
- a right to a day off each week.
Holiday entitlement gains for
NHS part-time workers
In January 2003 Unison Scotland was able
to extract a commitment from the Scottish Executive to ensure
part time staff got full pro rata holiday rights. However,
despite this government instruction and the fact that European
law prohibits most discrimination against part-time workers,
many employers failed to change the holiday rules. In a
test case brought recently by UNISON one local NHS trust
admitted that the holiday rules led to unlawful treatment
of the part time worker in the test case. That worker will
now get additional holidays and a compensation payment.
However, the trust in that tribunal case now claims that
this was a unique situation. In response UNISON is encouraging
all part time staff to seek back pay through similar claims
and hopes to persuade the Government to set up a compensation
scheme. However, UNISON is also preparing the paperwork
to enable the union to submit thousands of tribunal claims
if this becomes necessary.
Health & Safety
Employees stressed more, employers clueless
Half of all sickness absence is due to stress and 1 in
5 workers is taking time off because of the problem, according
to a new report. The survey from insurance firm Unum Provident
also found that the past decade has seen an explosion in
employee claims for 'mental and psychological problems,'
which were rare a generation ago. It found that whereas
in 1995 only one in eight claims were for mental illnesses,
by last year the figure had ballooned to almost a quarter.
Over the same time, the proportion of claims for back and
neck problems and other 'traditional' industrial complaints
such as breathing difficulties had fallen sharply. A TUC
spokesperson commented: 'Bad organisation of work and the
intensity of work appears to be teaching HR a sharp lesson
in the limits of special management techniques. The basic
cure is more autonomy and better workloads.'
Hospital told to cure stress or else
The HSE has warned a leading NHS hospital it must act to
reduce workplace stress among its 1,100 staff. HSE ordered
West Dorset general hospitals NHS trust to undertake a risk
assessment of the burden being placed on employees at the
three-star Dorset county hospital. The HSE improvement notice
was the first served on a British employer to control workplace
stress since the introduction of new workplace stress management
standards. If local NHS management fails to respond adequately
by 15 December, the trust could face substantial fines or
prison terms for its senior executives. HSE investigated
working conditions at the hospital after staff complained
of bullying and unbearable hours. Inspectors found management
did not have required procedures to assess the risks.
Smoking in the workplace Ban
A complete ban on smoking in the workplace is closer to
reality after the European Commission announced plans to
draft new legislation that would outlaw lighting up at work.
European Commissioner for health, David Byrne said recently
that he intends to introduce European-wide legislation and
was "about to conceive a major initiative aimed at banning
smoking in workplaces" throughout the 15-country European
Union. Also, Stewart Maxwell MSP has submitted a
Private Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban smoking
in public places.
EQUALITY AT WORK
Pregnancy discrimination still rife
The general public may be supportive of working expectant
mothers and knowledgeable about their employment rights
but pregnant women still continue to face problems at work,
according to the results of a survey released in September
2003 during National Pregnancy Week. The Equal Opportunities
Commission published the findings to coincide with the launch
of Britain's first ever investigation into pregnancy discrimination
at work. More than 1200 people were questioned in the survey,
which revealed that 84% of respondents disagreed that pregnancy
affects a woman's dedication to her career. A further 21%
knew of an expectant mother who had experienced difficulties
at work because of her pregnancy with that figure rising
to 33% among women aged 25-34. Experiences cited included
facing unpleasant remarks or unfounded criticism, being
given unsuitable work or even being sacked. Both women and
men showed a high level of awareness of pregnant women's
rights. 75% knew that a pregnant woman was entitled to insist
on being given time off for ante-natal classes and 75% disagreed
that an employer could refuse a woman a job if they know
she is pregnant.
A lot of employment disputes end up at tribunal because
one side or other ends up talking hot air. However, in
a recent Swedish case hot air proved to be the pivotal
issue the whole workplace disagreement centred on.
Goran Andervass was awarded £60,000 compensation after
being sacked for telling off a colleague who had broken
wind. Andervass said he rebuked his un-named co-worker,
as he believed he had deliberately broken wind in his
office. The colleague complained to management who suspended
Andervass and later made him redundant.