TUC welcomes new Employment Bill
8 November 2001 - The TUC welcomed the Employment Bill plan for grievance and disciplinary procedures. TUC General Secretary John Monks said:
"Much of this bill can be warmly welcomed. The manifesto pledge on parental leave will be implemented. The proposal for new rights for learning reps is a recognition by government of the key role unions now play in boosting the skills of the workforce.
"The government has been right to resist employer whinging about employment tribunals. The growth in tribunal cases in recent years is a direct result of the growth of small businesses who have no proper procedures for resolving problems in the workplace and who don’t understand that with the right to employ people goes the responsibility to treat them fairly.
"That is why we welcome the requirement for companies to have proper grievance and disciplinary procedures based on the widely respected ACAS code. This will help resolve problems in workplaces rather than in tribunals.
"One concern however is that the new proposals should not disadvantage workers in small companies complaining of difficult issues such as sexual harassment. New procedures should not punish them at tribunal if they have not raised the matter directly with the harasser.
"We also have some concerns about the new proposal that 'minor' breaches of the procedures which employers need to follow when dismissing staff will no longer matter. This sends the wrong message to employers, some of whom will inevitably try to exploit this loophole. It's far better to have clear rules that everyone understands .
"In general this Bill represents a step forward for employment relations. At a time of such potentially great economic difficulty, it has been disappointing to see so many employer lobbyists putting so much effort into attacking the rights of their staff to receive decent treatment at work. It sometimes seems the employer message is ‘if only we could sack people unfairly, then we would avoid recession.’ The real scandal is not unfounded tribunal cases but the finding accepted by the government that employers break employment law three-quarters of a million times a year without it getting anywhere near a Tribunal.'
The TUC has argued strongly for union learning representatives to be put on a statutory footing on similar lines to health and safety reps. The Bill:
Gives union learning rights recognition in all recognised workplaces including small companies
Provides paid leave for recognised training for such a role
Provides paid leave for carrying out the role
Leave for employees to seek advise and guidance from their learning rep
So far, more than 3,000 union learning representatives have been trained - many through projects funded through the DfES Union Learning Fund.