Legislation banning employers from blacklisting workers because of union membership or activities unexpectedly came into force yesterday (2 March).
Under the regulations – which were expected to be implemented in April – current and former trade union members may complain to an employment tribunal if they are refused employment, subjected to a detriment, or unfairly dismissed for a reason relating to a blacklist. Employment agencies are unable to refuse to provide a service because a worker appears on a blacklist.
It is also unlawful to compile, use, sell or supply blacklists containing details of people who are, or were, trade union members, or who are taking part, or have taken part, in trade union activities, where the blacklist may be used by employers to discriminate in relation to the recruitment or treatment of existing workers.
Courts may award damages, including damages for injury to feelings, where the relevant provisions are breached.
The move follows evidence that a number of employers in the construction sector had been unlawfully vetting workers.
In March 2009, the Information Commissioner reported that 40 construction companies had subscribed to a database used to vet construction workers, which has now been closed under data protection law. Ian Kerr, the individual who operated the database, was fined £5,000 for committing a criminal offence under data protection legislation.
Employment relations minister Lord Young said: “Blacklisting someone because they are a member of a trade union is underhand, unfair, and blights people’s lives.
“The new regulations outlaw the compilation, dissemination and use of blacklists. They have been designed to build on existing protections in the area, which are found in trade union and data protection law. Good employers that operate fair and open vetting processes have nothing to fear from these regulations.”