Latest on the Trade Union Bill

As the Trade Union Bill makes its way through the House of Lords, the Government has published its response to the consultation about more stringent ballot thresholds for workers in "important public services". 

Under the new Bill, a union will only be able to call a strike where at least 50% of those members eligible to vote participate in the ballot and a majority of those participants vote in favour of strike action.  However in "important public services", in addition to the requirement of a 50% plus turnout, at least 40% of eligible members must vote in favour of strike action.

The intention of government is to amend the Bill to preclude applicability to any “ancillary workers” and that the threshold is only to be applicable when a "majority" of the balloted workers are providing "important public services".

The primary objective of the consultation was to define those public services to which the more stringent threshold would apply.  The Government has confirmed in its response that in the first instance, workers in the fire, health, education, transport, and boarder security sectors will fall under these ballot rules.

It had been proposed to include workers carrying out activities which are ancillary to the provision of important public services, thus potentially bringing private sector workers carrying out outsourced services within the relevant sector into the scope of this provision.  However as a result of the consultation this proposal has been dropped.

The Government has also published impact assessments on various aspects of the Trade Union Bill

European guidance on personal data in electronic communications and mobile devices published

Two new sets of guidance for European Union institutions relating to personal data in both electronic communications and mobile devices have been produced by The European Data Protection Supervisor. The aim is to ensure that these institutions comply with their legal data protection obligations, particularly when it comes to mobile devices used for work purposes.

Why should this be of interest to employers in the UK?  Because, according to the introduction to the guidance notes, as the legislation governing EU institutions is similar to the Data Protection Directive, (from which the UK’s Data Protection Act is derived), the same principles and guidelines apply to private organisations and individuals.

Blowing the whistle to someone other than your employer

On 1 February 2016, The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Amendment) (No 2) Order 2015 came into force, amending the 2014 Prescribed Persons Order to amend the list of prescribed persons to whom an employer can make a protected disclosure pursuant to the Public Interest Disclosure Act. 

In lay person’s terms that means that the list of organisations and individuals (other than an employer) to whom a worker can blow the whistle and still benefit from legal protection has been expanded to include a number of additional bodies, mainly in the healthcare sector.

Requirement to publish gender pay gap information

The draft Equality Act (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 have now been published for consultation.  The Regulations are due to come into force in October 2016.

Under the Equal Pay Act, men and women should be paid equal pay for carrying out work which is the same, similar or of equal value, however estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest the gender pay gap currently stands at 19.2% for full and part-time workers in the UK, meaning that on average for every £1 earned by a man, a woman earns 80p. 

The new Regulations will require employers with more than 250 employees to calculate and publish mean and median overall gender pay gap figures for the whole workforce, including salary and bonus payments (but excluding overtime) over the preceding 12 months, together with details of the number of men and women working across salary quartiles. The report on pay must be published on the employer’s website every year and left there for at least three years.  The information will also be uploaded to a government website.


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