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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
Topical news for activists and staff  
bargain 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.

Contacts list:
Ahrlene Ferguson a.ferguson@unison.co.uk
Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk
Peter Hunter p.hunter@unison.co.uk
Michael Byers m.byers@unison.co.uk
Kenny MacLaren k.maclaren@unison.co.uk

@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141 221 8953


- ACAS Guidance for new Discrimination regulations on Religion/Belief and Sexual Orientation

Health & Safety
Inspection rates drop

Workplace Issues
- Pension Protection
- Too busy to relax

Equality at Work
- Government guidance on the right to request flexible working.
- Some more equal than others

Britons have had a fling with a work colleague, with 28% still in a relationship that started at work

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs



ACAS Guidance for new Discrimination regulations on Religion/Belief and Sexual Orientation

December 2003 sees the introduction of new regulations outlawing discrimination against workers because of their sexual orientation, or their religion or belief.

Employers will no longer be able to refuse to employ people because fo their sexual orientation or religious beliefs, withhold training opportunities and promotion, or deny benefits they offer other colleagues. Importantly, the employer will also have a responsibility to protect staff against bullying or harassment suffered because of their sexuality or religion.

Following consultation ACAS has produced some extremely useful draft guidance on the regulations. The booklets are available on the ACAS website: http://www.acas.org.uk/art13.html


The National Minimum Wage Act came into effect on 1 April 1999. Currently there are three rates: an adult rate of £4.20 an hour, and a development rate of £3.60 for 18-21 year olds and those on accredited training and in the first six months of a new job.

From 1 October 2003 these will be uprated to:

· a main rate of £4.50 an hour for

those 22 and over

  • a 'development' rate of £3.80 an hour for those 18 to 21
  • a 'development' rate of £3.80 an hour for those who have reached the age of 22, and have started a new job with a new employer, and are taking part in accredited training. This rate can only be paid for the first six months of a new job, after which the worker must get at least the standard minimum wage of £4.50 an hour. (currently £3.60)

The main rate is expected to rise to £4.85, and the development rate to £4.10, from October 2004, but the government will only confirm this in early 2004 after the Low Pay commission has looked at the economic circumstances at the time.



Employment Rights




Health & Safety

Inspection rates drop

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) today are concerned over the growing trend among local authorities to reduce the priority given to health and safety enforcement resulting in a 10% drop in inspection rates.

The reduction, taken from statistics issued under the HELA report issued last month, shows that the reduction also means that there are less full time equivalent officers responsible for health and safety than there were five years ago. The role of local authorities has never been so important yet the general response from local government is to further reduce the priority it gives to health and safety enforcement. The Commission is currently reviewing the role of local authorities as part of its strategic planning for 2004 and these statistics increase the potential for health and safety enforcement to be delivered centrally and be removed from local authorities.

There is a well-recognised recruitment crisis in local government particularly in relation to regulatory services. Many authorities have increased the use of agency staff to undertake inspections and are attempting to find innovative ways to maximise effectiveness. These authorities are leading the way but there are many who seem unconcerned about reducing accidents and ill health in the workplace.




Bargaining issues



Workplace Issues

Pension Protection

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Andrew Smith has announced new measures to protect members of pension schemes and make it easier for companies to run the schemes.

These include:

· Pension Protection Fund the first ever protection scheme for Defined Benefit pensions in the UK protecting pension rights accrued when a company goes bust.

· Full Buy Out ensuring that where a solvent company chooses to wind up its scheme it should fully buy out members' benefits.

· New Pensioner Regulator with new activity, targeted on badly run and high risk schemes, putting consumers first and ensuring secure schemes continue with unnecessary regulatory burden.

· Changes to the Priority Order guarantees remaining assets of a scheme in wind up are distributed fairly among the workforce reflecting the length of service of employees.

Overall the proposals could save business up to £155 million.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "We welcome the proposed introduction of a pension protection fund (PPF) to guarantee members a specified minimum level of pension if their employer becomes insolvent. We have been campaigning for a PPF for many years."

However the TUC are "strongly opposed to any increase in public service pension schemes' retirement age from 60 to 65."

Too Busy to Relax

UK workers are too busy to take their holidays, with almost £4bn worth of work going unpaid each year, new research claims. A poll by employee benefits firm 'youatwork' shows that employees fail to take three months of holiday entitlement over the course of their working lives, with men the worst offenders.




Government guidance on the right to request flexible working.

The Department of Trade and Industry has published a set of forms that can be used by employees to request the right to work flexibly under the new Employment Act if they are the parent of a child under the age of 6 or disabled child under 18. The forms are not mandatory but are useful as they set out the requirements an employee must meet before he/she can apply to work flexibly. However, UNISON believes that it is better to negotiate with the employer at a collective bargaining level for the right to work flexibly, through work-life balance and family friendly policies. The forms can be accessed at: http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/individual/flexforms.htm .

Some more equal than others

In an equal pay claim an administration officer employed by a school board was not able to use bursars engaged by the local education authority as comparators.

The woman was engaged as an administrative officer by the board. Having participated in a job evaluation scheme run by her local county council, her post was classified as that of an SO2 bursar. Relying on that evaluation, she requested the governors pay her an equivalent salary. They refused.

She brought an equal pay claim and, relying on the decision in South Ayrshire Council vs Morton, 2001, the tribunal found in her favour on the basis that there was a sufficient connection in a loose and non technological sense between (her) employment and a comparator from another employer"

The school board appealed and the appeal was allowed.

The European Court of Justice decision in Lawrence vs Regent Office Care Limited 2002 had clarified that an employee relying on a comparator employed by a different employer must show a single body is responsible for the difference in pay, otherwise no-one is in a position to remedy the inequality. The woman's salary was fixed by the Governors, while the bursars' salary was not.



Move over Cilla Black, the nation's personnel departments seem to be doing a better job at matchmaking.

A survey of 10,000 users of web service AOL has found that nearly three-quarters of

Britons have had a fling with a work colleague, with 28% still in a relationship that started at work. According to AOL's Josa Young: "The workplace has become one of the most popular environments to meet your life partner. Perhaps the long hours people work these days might mean we don't have any choice now, but to fit our relationships in between meetings.




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