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BARGAIN BRIEF NOVEMBER 2001
 
Topical news for activists and staff
Click here for previous Bargain Briefs


bargaining brief
is 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.

Legal
Calculating the NMW for home workers
Flexible working
Protection for Pregnant Workers

Employment Rights
New annual leave entitlements
New 'right to ask' for more flexible hours from 2003

Industrial Relations
Reduction in Public Sector Training

Health & Safety
UNISON member may achieve record pay out for office injury
Asthma Hazards

Equalities
Failure to address Disability at Work
Sexual Harassment

AND FINALLY . . .
Asda in Livingston is preparing to advertise for a Mother Christmas

Contacts list:

 

Legal

Calculating the NMW for home workers

A recent ET held that there are no general rules to be applied to determine how long a home worker is actually working. Instead, the Tribunal must look at all the facts of the case and analyse the tasks being carried out.

In this case (British Nursing Association v Inland Revenue) a night service required nurses working at home to be available to answer the telephone between 8pm and 9am. Between calls they were free to spend time as they wished. The Tribunal found that the nurses were at work the whole shift, not just the time spent answering the calls, because they had to be available to answer the telephone the entire time.

Flexible working

On the same day as new regulations giving parents a right to ask for flexible working (see below) two ET cases were publicised, giving further backing to parents' right to work flexible hours.

In the first case, a Somerset police officer won a sex discrimination case after her employer refused her request not to work shifts so her children could attend nursery.

In the second case, a Scottish car mechanic won his sex discrimination case after his employer refused his request to work part-time to look after his son the ET decided that the employer gave no meaningful consideration to the request and would probably have agreed to a similar request from a woman.

UNISON Scotland is currently fighting a similar case on behalf of two women whose shifts changed without their prior agreement, thereby making their childcare arrangements unsustainable.

Protection for Pregnant Workers

The European Court of Justice has rejected claims that a worker had breached good faith by failing to mention that she was pregnant at her interview for the job. She had had to leave a six month contract, after five months due to the pregnancy and the court upheld the view that she had been discriminated against because of her pregnancy.

In a separate case, the European Court has ruled that a failure to renew a fixed-term contract due to pregnancy would also constitute sex discrimination.

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Employment Rights

New annual leave entitlements

As from 25th October 2001 workers now accrue holiday rights from the first day of employment, at a rate of 1/12th of annual entitlement for every month worked, rounded up to the nearest day, rather than having to wait 13 weeks for automatic holiday entitlement.

So, if the annual entitlement is the minimum 4 weeks, then after 3 months a full time worker would have 5 days leave. A 3 day week part-timer would accrue 1 day's holiday entitlement for each month worked.

People who started work between 30th July and 25th October 2001 (i.e. those who would still be subject to the old 13 week qualifying period) are automatically entitled to at least 4 weeks' annual leave from 25th October, since the 13 week qualifying period has been abolished.

New 'right to ask' for more flexible hours from 2003

The DTI has announced that from April 2003 parents will have the right to request more flexible working hours to accommodate childcare responsibilities. Requests will have to be in writing and then must be discussed at a meeting. The employer must put any refusal in writing and give a 'convincing business case' for refusal. Parents will then be able to appeal and ultimately take their case to an Employment Tribunal. This new 'right to ask' is much weaker than the right to automatically work fewer hours that trade unions and parents groups were campaigning for.

 

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Industrial Relations

Reduction in Public Sector Training

Training provided by the public sector is declining compared with new provision in the private sector, according to a survey commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council. Traditionally, access to training has been one of the main benefits or working in the public sector.

Reasons suggested for this point to a deskilling of jobs, an increase in the contracting out of services and general decrease in staff levels. This has lead to higher workloads, leaving fewer employees to cover for staff attending courses.

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HEALTH & SAFETY

UNISON member may achieve record pay out for office injury

An Employment Tribunal has supported a claim for £250.000 for a UNISON member who claimed discrimination against a disabled person, due to developing RSI, as a result of poor seating. She had attempted to compensate by leaning forward, thus aggravating a former back injury. Her employers refused to give her a more suitable chair, despite a long spell off work, exacerbating the injury over a longer period on her return.

The tribunal supported her case, and since the ceiling on compensation awards for this type of claim were removed last year, her solicitors have requested a pay-out of £250,000.

Asthma Hazards

The TUC is urging the Government to introduce legislation to ensure that firms address causes of work-related asthma, as up to 20 people a day are contracting the disease because of conditions in their workplace.

The TUC feels a legally binding Approved Code of Practice would highlight measures employers could take to prevent the spread of asthma.

A survey undertaken by the TUC found that only 41% of firms carried out risk assessments and only 28% monitored workers' health.

 

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EQUALITIES

Failure to address Disability at Work

According to the 2001 Managing Disability at Work Survey, employers are not comprehensively addressing issues for disabled people. Few employers offer more than simple administrative approaches when dealing with people with disabilities and less than half had used the government's Access to Work scheme which offers funding to firms wishing to employ disabled people.

Sexual Harassment

A report compiled by the EOC has shown that almost 50% of employees who pursue sexual harassment tribunal claims felt that they could not confide in anyone within their workplace. Many claimed that they were too embarrassed and reluctant to make waves out of fear of damaging their careers. However the report goes on to say that tribunals are less likely to uphold cases if the employee has not made a formal complained to their employer, or failed to lodge a tribunal case within the required three-month time limit.

The EOC has issued advice from their Website and a leaflet, "What would you do if your boss asked you for a blow job?" A leaflet for managers is also available

 

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AND FINALLY

Asda in Livingston is preparing to advertise for a Mother Christmas. Adverts in local job centres failed to come up with any applicants from the male population of West Lothian and none of the male employees of the 600-strong workforce jumped at the chance to play Santa Clause during the store's Christmas festivities, prompting the General Manager to seek applications from "potential Mrs Clauses as well".

Nice to see equal opportunities in action!

 

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Contacts list:
Dave Watson
d.watson@unison.co.uk
Dianne Anderson
d.anderson@unison.co.uk

@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0141-332 0006
Fax 0141-307 2572

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