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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


- New revised EOC Code of Practice on Equal Pay
- EOC backs mums on breast-feeding babies in the workplace
- Asthmatic worker exposed to smoke awarded compensation

- Banning of hand held mobiles

Health & Safety
UK a dangerous place to work!

Workplace Issues
- Workers continue to be cheated out of the minimum wage

Equality at Work
- No need to justify 'length of service' as basis for pay increases

How not to alienate work colleagues.

Click here for previous Bargain Briefs



New revised EOC Code of Practice on Equal Pay

The Equal Opportunities Commission's new revised Code of Practice on Equal Pay has received parliamentary approval and will come into force on 1 December 2003. The Code has been revised to take account of new legislation and recent case law, and is intended to provide practical guidance on achieving equal pay without sex discrimination. Although it is aimed primarily at employers, the EOC hopes that employees and their representatives or advisers may also find it useful. The Code is admissible in evidence in any proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 or the Equal Pay Act 1970. This means that, while the Code is not binding, an employment tribunal may take into account an employer's failure to act on its provisions. New material contained in the revised Code includes information on equal pay for pregnant women and women on maternity leave, grievance procedures, the equal pay questionnaire and equal pay reviews.

EOC backs mums on breast-feeding babies in the workplace

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) claims that women still have the right to breast-feed at work, despite a recent tribunal ruling that employers do not have to provide facilities. Last year, an employment tribunal ruled that a female employee had been discriminated against after her employers said she should take unpaid leave if she wished to breast-feed after her maternity leave period had ended. However a recent EAT overturned this ruling stating that no right to breast-feed at work exists in law. In effect this ruling means that it will no longer be considered sexual discrimination for an employer to fail to provide breast-feeding facilities. The EOC however has said that under Health and Safety legislation, employers still have to provide pregnant and breast-feeding women with a place to rest.

UNISON is supporting a Private Members Bill promoted by Elaine Smith MSP on this issue.

Asthmatic worker exposed to smoke awarded compensation

An EAT recently ruled that an asthmatic employee was discriminated against under the Disability Discrimination Act after her former employers failed to enforce a non-smoking policy in the workplace. The employee had complained about the smoky atmosphere at her place of work and was subsequently moved to a non-smoking area, however her employers still failed to enforce the no smoking policy at her new area of work. Although only employed for 45 days the employee was able to sue for unfair dismissal, after being sacked for taking 16 days off her work, because she was asthmatic and registered disabled. The EAT awarded the former employee £17,000 in damages.

Banning of hand held mobiles

The Government is to make the use by drivers of hand-held mobile phones and similar communication devices unlawful with effect from 1 December 2003. Under a new provision inserted into the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, it will be a criminal offence for anyone to drive a motor vehicle while using a hand-held telephone or a similar device (other than a two-way radio). The new provisions will also affect employers, although the Department of Transport considers that employers would not be liable simply because they have supplied a telephone or phone an employee who is driving, they are likely to be liable if they require their employees to use a hand-held phone while driving. They may also be liable, in the Department's view, if they fail to forbid employees to use such phones while driving on company business.



Employment Rights




Health & Safety

UK a dangerous place to work!

Latest official statistics show that British workplaces still remain dangerous environments in which to work. New figures from the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) show that 226 people were killed in work-related accidents in the UK between March 2002 and March 2003, 25 fewer than 2001/02. Figures also showed that in the same period there were 28,426 major injuries in British workplaces, 415 more than 2001/02. There were 126,004 injuries causing 3 days or more absence from work, (3,651 less than in 2001/02). The figures also revealed that in 2002/03 the HSE issued 13,263 enforcement notices, an increase of 20 per cent on the figure for 2001/02. Safety fines, however, fell significantly, as did the number of court actions taken by HSE, down 15 % on 2001/02. In terms of Scottish figures the rate of fatal injury to employees actually increased by 14% between March 2002 and March 2003. This is in stark comparison to the overall UK figure, which showed an overall 11% decrease in fatal injuries to employees.






Bargaining issues



Workplace Issues

Workers continue to be cheated out of the minimum wage

Over four and a half years after the minimum wage was introduced, the TUC has calculated that thousands of workers continue to be cheated out of the minimum wage by dishonest employers. Although around £13 million has been recovered from lawbreaking bosses since the minimum wage was introduced on 1 April 1999, the TUC estimates that around 170,000 workers are still taking less money home than the law says they should be. To try to help track down those employers who are deliberately avoiding paying their staff £4.50 an hour (or £3.80 an hour if they're aged 18-21), the TUC and the Low Pay Network have recently published a new edition of their enforcement guide to the minimum wage. Enforcing the National Minimum Wage sets out in plain terms how unions and advice workers can make sure all workers are earning at the very least the minimum wage and points out that often all that is needed to make an employer start paying the minimum wage is for a union or an adviser to bring non-payment to their attention. More unwilling employers will need the involvement of the Inland Revenue before they start paying their workers the legal mi






No need to justify 'length of service' as basis for pay increases

In an important case on equal pay, the EAT has decided that an employer does not have to justify pay differentials between full-time employees based on length of service even if the pay structure indirectly discriminates against women. The pay differentials that were the subject of the claim came about from a previous pay system, in which the male comparators had moved further up the pay band because of their longer service. The EAT's decision concerned a female HSE Principal Inspector who claimed equal pay with four male comparators who earned between £4,000 and £9,000 gross per annum more than her. It was accepted before the employment tribunal that the applicant and her comparators were employed on 'like work'; that the pay differential was solely attributable to the application of a length of service criterion for determining pay acceleration; and that using that criterion had a disproportionate adverse impact on women. The issue in dispute was therefore whether the HSE had objectively to justify the use of length of service in these circumstances. The tribunal took the view that the HSE had failed to provide specific justification for the differentials based on length of service. However, the EAT has now overturned that decision, ruling that the employer was entitled to reward seniority without needing to show its actual importance for the performance of the specific duties entrusted to the employee.




A leading UK recruitment agency has recently released the results of its study on how not to alienate work colleagues. Top 5 pet hates are:

  1. Being emailed by people sitting nearby
  2. People who listen to voicemails on speakerphone
  3. Colleagues who swear at their computer
  4. Colleagues choice of music/radio station
  5. Colleagues who do not share tea-making duties

You have been warned!




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