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What is a Workers' Rights Bill?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 6 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Workers Workers Rights Union Minimum

A workers' rights bill doesn’t refer to any specific Act of Parliament but more to any Act which comes through government that has a beneficial impact on the rights of workers. An example might be the bill that introduced the Minimum Wage into the United Kingdom.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries successive workers' rights bills gave more and more rights to workers and the trend was only reversed in the 1980s and 1990s. This was when Conservative governments of the time used the law to erode workers' rights in an attempt to break the Power Of The Unions.

Private Members Bill for Workers' Rights

A worker's rights bill can be originated by any MP, although they are usually initiated by someone with a cabinet seat. There is a process known as a private member's bill for a back-bencher to try to get a bill passed through Parliament and turned into an Act of Parliament. A recent example of this was a private member's bill introduced by Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.

His bill would have given agency workers new rights to sick pay, holidays, pensions and equal wages with permanent staff. Agency workers, many of them migrants but also often domestic workers, have significantly fewer rights and hiring agency workers is perceived by unions as a way for companies to exploit labour, paying less than the minimum wage to save on costs. Five of the big unions and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) backed the bill.

This bill was talked out of the house by Jim Fitzpatrick, the minister for employment relations. This is a tactic whereby someone on can effectively kill a bill because there are time limits set on discussion periods, and if those time limits expire, the bill is dead.

New Domestic Political Initiative on the Workers Front

The concept survived though, and another private member's bill, this time initiated by Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, re-introduced the idea. The bill was called the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) bill and was voted past Parliament in February 2008. Renamed the EU Temporary and Agency Workers Directive will come into force on 1 October 2011.

However, bodies representing employers, particularly those representing small businesses, fear that the increased costs and administration overheads of complying with the bill may force certain small businesses out of business. Another problem was caused by IT and engineering agency workers, who would be severely disadvantaged by going onto equal pay as permanent staff members, as they are usually paid significantly more. This was resolved by an amendment to the bill excluding professional IT contractors and similar people.

Can't Do Right for Doing Wrong

All this goes to show that introducing any bill that tries to improve the lot of certain groups of workers will often find opposition, and sometimes from the workers it is aiming to protect, not just the employers. This was very true of the minimum wage requirement when it was first introduced, another initiative that shows the complexity of the domestic political machine when it comes to dealing with workers rights.

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@gar - you would have to give Acas a call and talk it through with one of its advisors. You can do this via the link here . I hope this helps.
WorkingRights - 7-May-15 @ 11:37 AM
I have been dismissed for gross mis-conduct and was provided with statements before my hearing, however during the hearing my employer referred to a statement I had not had access to before the hearing, do I have a case to appeal on these grounds?
gar - 6-May-15 @ 1:37 PM
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