bargaining brief is
a new publication from the Policy & Information Team. It aims to provide
a concise and topical news service for activists and staff engaged in representing
and bargaining on behalf of UNISON members in Scotland. Recognising that
not all activists have the access or time to read detailed information we
hope this summary format will be helpful. Further information on any of
the news items below is available from the P&I Team and we welcome feedback
on any aspect of this service.
It is common practice particularly
in the NHS, Social Work and voluntary sectors to automatically suspend staff
who are the subject of abuse allegations.
The Court of Appeal in Gogay
v Hertfordshire CC 2000 IRLR 703 have fired a warning shot against this
practice. The employee was a residential care worker for a child who made
allegations of sexual abuse. She was suspended and despite the investigation
finding no case to answer she suffered clinical depression and was unable
to return to work.
The court awarded significant
damages as the employer had been in breach of the implied term of trust
and respect in the manner in which they suspended her. It did not follow
that because an investigation is taking place that the employee must be
suspended. Other options including transfer or leave should have been considered.
At a time when employers often
adopt knee jerk reactions to abuse allegations, this decision is a timely
reminder that staff have rights as well.
One in five staff still work
more than 48 hours per week and of those less than a fifth have been asked
to sign an opt-out from the Working Time Regulations. These were the results
from a CIPD survey which concluded that the WTR had little impact on reducing
the working week.
The ECJ in SIMAP 2000 IRLR
845 have clarified the status of time spent on call. It only counts
as 'working time' if required to be present at work - not merely
legal aid at tribunals
The Scottish Executive has
introduced legal aid for 'advice by way of representation' (ABWOR) at Employment
Tribunals with effect from January 2001. It will only be available in cases
"too complex for the applicant to present it to a minimum standard
of effectiveness in person". This is a severe test in addition to the
usual income limits and the Scottish Executive anticipates there being about
300 successful applications each year.
A survey in Personnel Today
suggests that nearly half of all firms are more likely to settle out of
court since increased compensation was introduced.
The average compensation award
for unfair dismissal claims last year was £2515. However, the real
cost to an employer is in legal and management staff time. Legal costs for
an unfair dismissal claim can range between £2500 and £5000
on top of staff time to prepare the case.
The government have published
draft proposals to deter frivolous cases. Tribunals will have a new power
to strike out cases although this is unlikely to be used often as it may
be challenged under the Human Rights Act. An increase in the deposit payable
from £150 to £500 together with the costs ceiling being raised
from £500 to £10000 is seen as a more effective deterrent to
The ACAS alternative arbitration
scheme has been laid before parliament. Aiming to reduce the number of cases
going to Employment Tribunals it provides a less legalistic alternative.
The scheme only applies to unfair dismissal cases and applicants will have
to sign a waiver agreeing. ACAS estimates one in seven unfair dismissal
cases could be heard under the new system (details at www.acas.org.uk).
Research for the Resource Connection
shows that employees who job share have an output 30% higher than one full
time employee. They also scored highly on problem solving and team work.
The pay gap between men and
women has narrowed slightly since 1997 from 20% to 18%. This means a mid-skilled
woman with no children will earn £240,000 less than a man in her working
A new survey from the EOC suggests
that few organisations have adopted processes that target the achievement
of equal pay. Less than 20% have adopted the EOC code of practice on equal
pay since its introduction in 1997. UNISON branches may wish to check if
their employers have adopted the code and undertaken the essential equal
pay audit. Particular attention should be paid to performance related pay
schemes which some believe have slowed down the process of reducing the
gender pay gap.
The governments latest solution
is to speed up the tribunal system for hearing equal pay cases. In a consultation
paper Towards Equal Pay for Women Tribunals will be able to call
in assessors to reduce the number of experts needed. The proposals will
also close a loophole which allows tribunals to dismiss a claim before it
is properly investigated.
The Disability Rights Commission
has launched a new campaign Actions Speak Louder Than Words which
calls upon business to take practical steps to enable disabled people to
participate fully in society. Details of the campaign and a training video
can be viewed on the commission's web site (www.drc-gb.org).
The Lawful Business Practice
Regulations came into force on 24 October 2000. With some safeguards these
regulations give employers the right to intercept communications (e-mail,
phone etc) without an employee's consent.
However, the Data Protection
Commissioner has issued a draft Code of Practice which takes a stronger
view of employees right to privacy. The regulations and employer monitoring
could also be challenged under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act which provides
for a reasonable expectation of privacy. The legal position will hopefully
become clearer in the next few months when the DPC is expected to publish
her final Code.
One million people are employed
as temporary staff in the UK. In many UNISON services, particularly Utilities
this is a common route to a permanent post. 500,000 find a permanent job
The DTI's draft Employment
Agencies Act will allow employers not to pay recruitment fees when temps
are appointed to permanent posts - provided there is a four week gap.
work life balance
The government has published
its Work-Life Balance Survey 2000 which warns employers that they
need to adopt work-life balance policies to cut staff turnover and absenteeism.
52% of employers surveyed claimed
policies helped reduce absenteeism, 46% said productivity increased and
72% said it fostered good employee relations. (www.dfee.gov.uk)
Its official! Office gossip
is good for organisations. Research by the Industrial Society suggests that
employers should encourage sociability. Gossip is the cement that holds
@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0141-332 0006
Fax 0141-307 2572