Trade Union and Enterprise Acts receive Royal Assent

Two new pieces of legislation have received Royal Assent and will be brought into force shortly.

The Trade Union Act 2016 makes certain changes to the way in which trade unions are funded and collect subscriptions, and how ballots for industrial action are operated. Under the Act,

  • industrial action can only take place when at least 50% of those who are eligible to vote have actually taken part in the ballot;
  • in certain public service sectors, including health, education, transport, border security and firefighting, at least 40% of the total members who have the right to vote in the ballot must have voted in favour of industrial action; and
  • the outcome of a ballot in favour of industrial action will be valid for only six months (or nine, if agreed between the union and the employer)

Under the Enterprise Act 2016, an independent employer-led body (the Institute for Apprenticeships) will be created, which is intended to ensure apprenticeships meet the needs of business. The Act will also introduce targets for apprenticeships in public sector bodies in England, and prevent non-statutory apprenticeships using the term; it also strengthens retail workers’ rights in relation to Sunday working and caps exit payments in the public sector.

Government call for evidence on non-compete clauses

The government has announced that it will be launching a call for evidence asking for views on non-compete clauses in employment contracts, used to prevent individuals competing against their former employer or working for a competitor for a set period of time.

The clauses are only enforceable if they protect a legitimate interest and go no further than is reasonable. Most jurisdictions allow similar protections for businesses; however, they are unlawful in California, and Massachusetts is considering a similar ban. It has been suggested that the success of San Francisco and Silicon Valley is partly because start-ups are hindered by such clauses, so the UK government is asking for views from individuals and employers on whether this type of practice is acting as a barrier to innovation and employment.

New EU data protection law to apply from 25 May 2018

Find out more in our review of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The outlook for UK immigration – the next 12 months

Find out more in our article on the upcoming changes to UK immigration.

Find more articles in May’s edition of Law at Work