Huge legal changes: but no guidelines

HR professionals are today facing the most far reaching changes to employment relations in a generation without clear guidance from government.

Experts are warning that employers are in danger of inadvertently breaking the law on Statutory Union Recognition because easy-to-follow guidance from the Government has not been made available.

As unions geared up to target high-profile employers, such as McDonald’s, with recognition bids, personnel professionals were being steered towards technical notes on the legislation to help them deal with claims.

But the 27,000 word explanatory notes on the DTI web site are considered almost as impenetrable as the law itself. Lawyers have called it the most complex yet in employment legislation.

From today unions can gain automatic bargaining rights on pay, holidays and hours where half the workforce are members or 40 per cent vote for recognition in a ballot.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said the EEF is trying to produce its own guide.

“Only a small number of employers and legal advisers will understand this law, it is not in a form that is user-friendly.

“The Government should have produced a layman’s guide,” he said.

Robbie Gilbert, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Statute and Practice, said few employers know that they only have 10 days to respond when they get a request from a union.

“People need time to put systems in place to ensure requests are dealt with. It is not good enough that such an extremely big and sensitive change is being rushed in,” he said.

“The Government should not have imposed this 6 June deadline, it should have allowed more time for guidance to come out.”

Guidance on how the Central Arbitration Committee will deal with applications for recognition is also missing.

It is due to come out this week. The CAC was unable to produce its guidance earlier because CAC members were only appointed by the DTI in April.

A DTI spokeswoman said, “Longer explanatory notes, with detailed flow charts explaining the procedure were out last year. There is also a code of practice and information about the collective bargaining process. We are not planning to put anything else out.”

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