Independent review into electronic balloting

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced an independent review into electronic balloting for the purpose of holding ballots on industrial action. This review is required under the provisions of section 4 of the Trade Union Act 2016, which was an amendment made to the original draft Bill as it progressed through Parliament, as a concession to those opposed to it. The Act does not make any commitment to allow electronic balloting to be introduced, only for a review to take place.

The review will look in particular at the electronic and physical security of e-balloting methods, compared with existing practices of balloting trade union members.

The final report will be laid before Parliament, together with the Secretary of State’s response, by the end of December 2017.

Whistleblowing in the care sector

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced increased whistleblowing protection for those applying for jobs in the children’s social care sector, to be included in the Children and Social Work Bill 2016-17.

This will mean that applicants for roles relating to children’s social care functions in local authorities will be protected from unfair treatment if they have previously made protected disclosures. Currently, whistleblowing protection is only available to employees and workers, not to applicants for employment.

The existing BEIS Code of Practice for employers on whistleblowing will also be reviewed by the end of 2017.

CIPD absence management survey 2016

The CIPD has published its latest absence management survey, in conjunction with Simply Health. The survey, of over 1,000 employers, found the average level of sickness absence to be 6.3 days per employee per year, down slightly from the 2015 figure of 6.6 days. The most common reasons for both short and long term sickness absence remain broadly the same as in previous years, with both stress and mental ill health featuring strongly.

The report suggests that employers increasingly recognise the important role played by line managers in managing sickness absence, although this is not apparently reflected in the level of training or ongoing support offered to line managers.

Interestingly, nearly half (46%) of employers surveyed said that their organisation has increased its focus on well-being over the past 12 months, with over a third (35%) having a well-being strategy or programme in place and 57% having individual initiatives or ad hoc arrangements in place rather than a formal strategy.

A copy of the full report can be accessed from the CIPD website.

BEIS committee – future world of work

The Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has launched a new inquiry into the future world of work and rights of workers, following its recent inquiry into working practices at Sports Direct and ongoing concerns over the treatment of workers in the ‘gig economy’. Questions over the status of such workers, highlighted in the cases of Uber drivers and Deliveroo couriers, will be addressed by the inquiry.

The inquiry will consider the legal definition of ‘worker’, the balance of benefits between workers and employers, flexible contracts, zero-hour contracts, the role of the Low Pay Commission, minimum wage enforcement and the role of trade unions in providing representation.

Submissions can be made to the committee online by 19 December 2016. Evidence sessions will begin in 2017.

Further details of the inquiry can be found on, and written submissions made via, the Parliament website.

Labour market enforcement undertakings and Orders

From 25 November 2016 employers who commit labour market offences, such as breaching rules regarding the national minimum wage, conduct of employment agencies or gang master licensing may be invited to give an undertaking to comply with specific measures to ensure they comply with their legal obligations. If they refuse to give, or breach, such an undertaking, the relevant enforcing body may apply to a Magistrates’ Court for a Labour Market Order to be imposed instead. Failure to comply with an Order is a criminal offence, subject to a prison sentence of up to two years and/or a fine.