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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
BARGAIN BRIEF MARCH 2002
 
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
Holiday pay entitlement whilst on long-term sick leave
Trade union recognition appropriate bargaining units
Equal pay comparators
Proving 'mental impairment' under the DDA
Increased unfair dismissal award limits

Employment Rights
New rules on parental leave
Whistleblowers and contract breaches

Bargaining issues
Sickness Absence Falling

Stress Counselling
Stress and reduced productivity

Health & Safety
Employer liability for drivers

Equalities
Equalities Commission
Pay Gap narrowing in Scotland

AND FINALLY . . .
What's in a job title?

Contacts list:

 

Legal

Holiday pay entitlement whilst on long-term sick leave

The EAT (in Kigass Aero v Brown) has confirmed that under the Working Time Regulations 1998 employees continue to accrue entitlement to paid holiday whilst on long-term sick leave. Therefore, even when a worker's contractual sickpay and SSP entitlements have run out they are entitled to 4 weeks' paid holiday per year.

Trade union recognition appropriate bargaining units

There's been some clarification of what is meant by an 'appropriate bargaining unit' in an application for compulsory trade union recognition. In R v Central Arbitration Committee ex parte Kwik Fit, the Court held that the CAC must base its decision on the most appropriate unit on the location and nature of the workers seeking recognition. It said 'It is obviously no answer to a claim for recognition in Bolton that there is a more appropriate bargaining unit in Liverpool'. The CAC and the union had both previously argued that the CAC''s obligation was to decide whether the bargaining unit proposed by the union was appropriate; if it wasn't then the CAC should go on to consider the employer's proposal. This decision overturns that.

Equal pay comparators

In South Ayrshire Council v Morton, the Court of Session has confirmed that a comparator for an equal pay claim doesn't have to come from the employee's own workplace or the same employer. Where a collective bargaining unit exists any employee who falls within that unit can be used as a comparator. In Morton a female headmistress of a primary school could use a male headmaster of a secondary school in another local authority area as the comparator, since teachers' pay is negotiated nationally.

Proving 'mental impairment' under the DDA

A recent EAT gave useful guidance on the sort of evidence needed to prove 'mental impairment' under the DDA. In Morgan v Staffordshire University the EAT held that it is not enough to plead just a catch all complaint of 'stress' and then provide medical notes for the Tribunal which may or may not diagnose depression or a similar condition; for a mental impairment to meet the requirements of the Act it must be a recognised clinical condition and proper supporting medical reports should be provided.

Increased unfair dismissal award limits

The maximum payouts for unfair dismissal, if the dismissal takes place on or after 1st February 2002, have increased. The maximum compensatory award is now £52,600 and the basic award for unfair dismissal has risen by £10 per week to £250pw.

 

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Employment Rights

New rules on parental leave

As from 10th January 2002 all parents with children who were aged under five on 15 December 1999 are now entitled to 13 weeks off work (rather than just parents of children born after that date). However, the leave is still unpaid, must still be taken in blocks of a week or more and the parents must have worked for an employer for a year before they are entitled to parental leave.

There are special rules in place for the parents who now qualify for leave under the

new rules. Parents of children born or adopted between 15 December 1994 and 14 December 1999 are allowed to count a period of continuous employment of a year or more

with a previous employer from 15 December 1998 towards qualifying service for parental leave with their current employer.

Therefore, a parent of a child born in January 1995 who had worked for 2 years for one employer between March 2000 and March 2002 and then changed jobs now qualifies automatically for parental leave with their new employer. They must take the 13 weeks leave by the end of March 2005.

Whistleblowers and contract breaches

A recent EAT decision has shown that workers with less than a year's service can potentially claim unfair dismissal for alleging that their contract has been breached, under the 'whistleblowing' protections. In Parkins v Sodexho, the complainant said that he had been dismissed for informing his manager about lack of supervision, which he claimed was an infringement of his contract and therefore a 'protected disclosure' under the the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1988 because it was an infringement of a legal obligation. The EAT agreed with him. This decision increases the options for people to claim unfair dismissal against their new employer in the first year of their employment with them.

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Bargaining issues

Sickness Absence Falling

Local Government employers have reported that sickness absence has fallen for the second year running, with the average absence now running at 9.6 days per employee.

This compares favourably with the civil service and the NHS, but surveys shows a much lower level in the private and voluntary sector.

Stress is still the most common cause of illness at 20% with viral infections at 12.5%

Stress Counselling

A recent Court of Appeal ruling has indicated that employers offering confidential counselling services to their staff are less likely to be found liable for work-related stress claims. The judge laid down guidelines (which reinforce the UNISON Guidelines on Stress Management) for courts on stress claims and threw out three cases for compensation totalling nearly £200,000.

The guidelines say that employees should raise concerns over stress with their employers before they take legal action but that management should be encouraged to recognise the existence and causes of stress and take sensible steps to eliminate it.

Stress and reduced productivity

In a further study, over 89% of bosses do not regard stress as having a significant adverse impact on productivity.

The NOP/Investors in People UK research revealed that despite increased public awareness, employers did not believe the effect workplace stress would have on organisations. One fifth of employees on the other hand, claim that stress is the single biggest barrier affecting their output.

Ruth Spellman Chief Executive of IIP UK felt that it was time for employers to realise that stress was often a reflection of a company's failure to support its staff rather than an indication of an individual's weakness.

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HEALTH & SAFETY

Employer liability for drivers

Employers with employees on the road could face prosecution if they don't have clear safety policies protecting staff who drive during working hours.

From 2003 the Health & Safety Commission is proposed to apply rigorous health & safety laws to on-the-road activities, including an accident report form enabling police to assess the workload of commercial drivers. If an accident was found to have been caused by dangerous driving due to onerous employer demands, then the organisation could face prosecution. The proposals would also allow the HSC to check on the training and supervision of the drivers involved.

 

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EQUALITIES

Equalities Commission

Consultation is currently under way on government proposals to create a single Equalities Commission, replacing the existing commissions for equal opportunities, race and disability. In addition, there are rumours that the areas of age, sexual orientation and religious equality are to be added on to the remit of the current commissions.

Pay Gap narrowing in Scotland

The latest New Earnings Survey from the Office of National Statistics shows that the pay gap in Scotland is narrower than the UK average. Scotswomen now take home 83.2% of the average male rate, compared to 80.6% the year before.

However, the Equal Opportunities Commission in Scotland feels there is no room for complacency; they have produced a separate report showing that women fill only 29% of management positions in Scotland, compared with 30% across the UK

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AND FINALLY

A new survey finds that nearly half of all employees believe a new job title could improve their happiness at work. People should be as happy with a flash title as with a pay rise, says Professor Cary Cooper Bupa professor of organisational psychology at Manchester University. He feels it gives them a sense of security and a marketable asset.

 

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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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