The Government has published the Trade Union Bill 2015-2016 which aims to reform various aspects of the law on industrial action and trade union obligations and activities. If passed, the Bill would become the Trade Union Act 2015.
Ballot thresholds – currently, a strike or other industrial action will be unlawful unless at least 50% of trade union members who responded to the relevant ballot, vote in favour of the action. The Bill proposes an amendment to section 226 of TULRCA 1992, to introduce the additional requirement that at least 50% of all eligible members must have voted. The Bill also proposes a further additional threshold for workers in certain ‘important public services’, who will only be able to take industrial action where 40% of eligible members have voted in favour of the action.
Information to be included on a voting paper – the Bill would also amend section 229 of TULRCA so that voting papers must:
Information to members about ballot results – currently, section 231 of TULRCA provides that members are informed of how many votes in a ballot there were in total, how many people voted in favour and how many against the industrial action, and how many were spoiled. Proposed amendments to section 231 would mean that members would also be told:
Notice requirements for industrial action – under the Bill, the notice given to employers of industrial action under section 234A would be increased from 7 days to 14.
Expiry date of industrial action mandate – currently, provided that industrial action is started within a four week period (or longer, as agreed), there is nothing to prevent a union from suspending and restarting action in reliance on the original ballot, provided that it is the same industrial action. The Bill introduces a new four-month time limit after a ballot, in which strike action must take place.
Union supervision of picketing – section 219 of TULRCA sets out the requirements for picketing to be considered lawful. If picketing is not considered to be lawful, it may be actionable in tort. The Bill proposes new and fairly detailed requirements for unions to supervise any picketing which takes place, a failure to comply with which will make the picketing unlawful and therefore actionable in tort.
Facility time in the public sector – TULRCA and the Employment Relations Act 1999 provide for employees who are trade union officials to have a right to time off for taking part in union activities. The Bill proposes a new definition of ‘facility time’ to cover the different types of time off which a union official can take and gives the power for regulations to be made, which would require some public sector employers to publish information on how much time union officials spent on facility time.
Consultations on the Bill will close on 9 September 2015.
The Government has launched a consultation on the implementation of gender pay gap reporting for large private employers under section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. Key questions cover the type of information that ought to be required, how frequently the information should be updated, and whether the size threshold of 250 employees is appropriate.
The consultation ends of 6 September 2015. No draft regulations have yet been produced.
The guidance on the ‘Think, Act, Report’ framework has also been republished. This is aimed at encouraging voluntary action by employers to identify, and act transparently to address, gender pay gap issues.