The controversial Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent and became the Trade Union Act 2016 on 4 May. The commencement date is not yet known but the legislation will be brought into force via a statutory instrument in due course.
Some of the key reforms introduced by the Act are:-
- Requirement for at least 50% turnout in votes for industrial action.
- Employees providing essential public services can only take lawful industrial action if the vote has the backing of at least 40% of eligible Trade Union members, as opposed to just 50% of those who vote.
- A requirement for clearer descriptions of the trade union dispute and the planned industrial action to be included on the ballet paper; and
- A requirement that notice of industrial action is doubled to 14 days unless the employer agrees to a 7 day period.
- A 6 month time limit (9 months if the employer agrees) for industrial action after which a fresh mandate will be required.
The controversial proposal to repeal the ban on employers using agency staff to cover for striking employees has not been included in the Act.
Also on 4 May the Enterprise Bill received Royal Assent becoming the Enterprise Act 2016. The Act will be commenced in stages. It's intended purpose is the promotion and growth of small businesses and enterprise. It covers a wide range of topics but the highest profile issue in terms of employment law is the powers given to the Treasury and the Scottish and Welsh ministers to introduce a cap on exit payments for public sector employees.
The cap, currently set at £95,000, includes most payments made to an individual on termination of employment with exceptions only for certain compensation payments and bonus payments. The Government reportedly felt that the cap met a need for proportionality, fairness and consideration to the tax payer who fund the payments. The Treasury has confirmed to Morton Fraser that regulations implementing the cap will not come into force before October 2016 at the earliest, and therefore all exits before that date will not be within its scope.