a 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.
Application fees for
Employment Tribunals Dropped
The Government has dropped
plans to charge Employment Tribunal applicants a fee of £100. It
is still consulting on other proposed changes to the ET system.
Stress at work compensation
UNISON has helped a member
obtain £140,000 compensation for developing a stress-related illness
as a result of pressure at work. Thelma Conway, a social worker
with Worcestershire CC, obtained the award after exposing bad management
and then being put in temporary charge without proper training or
support. However, it is still very difficult to obtain damages for
illness caused by work-related stress. Amongst the many hurdles
to be overcome, it must be 'reasonably forseeable' to the employer
that their conduct will result in a stress illness for that employee,
usually by being warned that the employee is suffering from stress
and is being put under undue pressure.
Stress at work is a huge
issue - a more detailed briefing will be available from the P&I
NMW and attendance
Employers cannot include
attendance allowance payments when calculating the National Minimum
Wage. Only payments which are attributable to a worker's performance
at work can included (e.g. productivity bonuses) and the EAT held
that mere attendance at work does not fall within the definition
used in the Regulations (Aviation & Airport Services v Bellfield
& Ors). Consolidating an attendance allowance into an hourly rate
to comply with the NMW without obtaining the employees' consent
was an unlawful deduction from wages.
Holiday pay in lieu
In Whitley & District
Mens Club v MacKay an employee sacked for dishonesty was still entitled
to accrued holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations. This
is because the Regulations require an employer to make such payments
in lieu of statutory annual leave and the Regulations override any
clause in a contract which states that payment can be withheld in
certain circumstances e.g. if the employee is sacked for misconduct.
Discrimination Act 1975 has been amended by new regulations which
come into force on October 12th 2001. The Regulations change the
definition of indirect discrimination; it now occurs when a person
applies a provision, criteria or practice to the detriment of a
woman that would also be to the detriment of a considerably larger
proportion of women than men and which cannot be justified using
factors unrelated to sex.
also a new burden of proof in sex discrimination cases; the complainer
must establish facts from which the court/tribunal can presume that
there has been sex discrimination, From that point, the defender
must prove that there has been no such discrimination.
right to public holidays
have no automatic right to an extra day's paid holiday when the
Government declares an additional bank holiday, following Campbell
& Smith Construction Group v Greenwood. The EAT held that the status
of public or bank holidays is a matter of contract between the employer
and employee. This may be an issue for some employees next year,
as an extra bank holiday has been declared for 3 June to mark the
ignorant of Law
A recent survey found
that Scottish employers were ignorant of the implications of recent
changes in employment law. Over 80% of those questioned knew little,
if anything, about new rules for employment tribunals and the changes
to maternity leave. Those firms with union agreements were more
likely to know about the changes.
The TUC and the Industrial
Society has launched Changing Times, a new guide to implementing
work-life balance strategies that will benefit both employee and
employer. They have also issued Get the balance right, a video training
pack promoting the benefits of adopting flexible working policies.
There is a real need to aggressively promote flexible working practices.
Recent surveys have indicated that less than half of all employees
enjoy any kind of flexible working at all. On top of this UK workers
still work the longest hours in Europe despite the introduction
of the European Working Time Directive - over four million of us
regularly work more than 48 hours a week.
Flexible Working Policies
Industrial Society research
indicates that even where flexible working has been introduced,
very few companies have formal policies. Professor Sir George Bain,
chair of the Work and Parents Taskforce, said that there is an issue
in getting employers to take flexible working seriously. Staff consulted,
however, felt that informal policies did not work, as they were
uncertain what their rights on flexible working were and that senior
management only participated when the policies became formalised
and were included in the employee handbook.
Flexibility reduces Absenteeism
A further report by the
Industrial Society suggests that flexible working can reduce absenteeism
and backs up the business case for introducing flexibility at work
to enable employees to influence their work-life balance
The survey of nearly
300 firms showed that absence rates fell from around 8 days per
employee to 6.5 when flexible annual leave, occasional home working
and flexible working hours were introduced.
Employees and employers
had different perceptions of the reasons for absenteeism, however.
91% of employees said that they had time off for colds or flu; 74%
said they had stomach upsets or food poisoning and 54% attributed
their absences to headaches or migraines. Employers, however, only
attributed 65% of absences to colds and flu and cited stress and
family problems as high contributors to the statistics.
The London Borough of
Lewisham has reduced its employee absentee rate by more than four
days a year since 1993 by a combination of flexible working policies
and training programmes, all of which they believe improves motivation
Women Worst Affected
Only 29% of women surveyed
were "completely satisfied" with their working hours, compared with
51% in 1992. Mothers felt particularly aggrieved, with recent research
showing that mothers with a dependent child between 12 and 15 are
now working approximately 5 hours a week more than they did in the
The predicted home-working
revolution which would see office workers being replaced by people
working from home using computer links has failed to materialise,
according to a recent TUC report. Instead, workers are more likely
to use their home computers for working extra hours at home.
. . .
Office Rage hits UK
Angry colleagues are
on the increase, according to a survey by HR Consultancy, Eden Brown.
This is not about someone
losing their temper on a one-off basis, and apologising later. Office
Rage refers to people losing their rag on a regular basis, with
outbursts so pointed that they border on the abusive.
Competitive and pressurised
workplaces seem to encourage ruthlessness and stress which has led
to bellowing bosses, fist swinging and on rare occasions, physical
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
. . .
@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0141-332 0006
Fax 0141-307 2572