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Health and Safety Law

Compliance - guidance - training

14 JUN 2016

Trade Union Bill

Ian Bollans

Head of Environmental Health & Housing

Trade Union Bill
The TUC has launched an attack on the proposed Trade Union Bill.

A spokesperson said the government's Trade Union Bill will damage more than productivity and civil liberties: it could put our lives at risk at work. The union body said that the Bill includes measures that could dramatically curtail the time available to union safety reps to perform their functions and undergo training. According to TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson:

'In the case of health and safety representatives, of course, there is a legal duty on the employer to give them as much paid time off as they need to undertake their activities ... That is laud down in regulation. It is absolute. The regulations do not say that the employer can decide to restrict this time. If a representative needs it, they need it, and it will vary from week to week.'

But the TUC safety expert warned:

'The Trade Union Bill does two things. Firstly, it says that any public sector employer who has at least one union health and safety representative, will have to record and publish all the time taken away and any facilities provided. This is bureaucratic, pointless and will just mean that both employers and union representatives will have to allow ministers to restrict the rights to time off given to union health and safety representatives by amending the Health and Safety at Work Act. All they have to do is introduce new regulations. This is a really vindictive proposal, and of course an underhand one - sneaking in the right to make changes by Statutory Instrument into a much wider Bill.'

He added:

'At no time have the government given any justification for this proposal. As our report The Union Effect shows, union health and safety representatives save hundreds of lives and prevent tens of thousands of injuries and illnesses. Workplaces with union representatives and a joint safety committee have half the serious injury rate of those without. Any reasonable employer welcomes the presence of health and safety representatives, including most in the public sector. That is why this move makes absolutely no sense from a regulatory point of view. It will not save money or remove bureaucracy, nor will it improve safety. It is simply an ideologically led knee-jerk reaction.'
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