04 Sep 2020

Employment

Know your union rights – advice for employers and employees

Our head of employment law, Daniel Wilde, gives his reaction to the news that one of the world’s largest employers, Amazon, has had to withdraw two job adverts this week for "intelligence analysts" - roles that would involve reporting on union activity among workers.

“Amazon has been under the spotlight lately with several stories relating to its warehouse workers’ rights during the Covid pandemic hitting the headlines across the world.

“These latest reports about the online retail giant posting adverts for intelligence analysts who would – according to reports – be asked to ‘spy on’ their colleagues, reporting back to senior management on any planned union activity, has caused yet another stir and raises some questions about union members’ rights.

“The advert, which went live this week but has since been taken down, read: “Analysts must be capable of engaging and informing… stakeholders on sensitive topics that are highly confidential, including labour organising threats against the company.”

“Amazon has previously made it clear that it does not want its warehouse workers to join unions, saying that it prefers to talk directly to them about any concerns they may have.

“If you are an employee who is a member of a union and worried about how this might affect your rights within the company – or, indeed, an employer who has followed the criticism of Amazon’s treatment of its workers with interest – it is worth knowing some key facts about trade union membership and employment law.

“The law protects employees against being blacklisted because of trade union membership. Since the inception of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010, blacklists have been illegal. It is unlawful to refuse someone employment, subject them to a detriment and/or dismiss them for a reason relating to a blacklist. In fact, it is unlawful to merely compile a blacklist.

“An employer can be fined for a breach of the Regulations and compensation to a worker who has been subjected to a breach is a minimum of £5,000.

“It is also unfair to treat someone less favourably or dismiss them for being members of a trade union.

“One final point which may be of interest to any employers who are currently facing employee unrest as a result of working conditions during the pandemic – agencies are not allowed to supply workers specifically to cover work that is not being done during lawful industrial action. Be assured though that agency workers already in place as part of your normal business can carry on as usual.”

If you have any queries relating to any of the points in this blog, or any other employment law questions, please contact Daniel Wilde at Harding Evans Solicitors on 01633 244233 or email wilded@hevans.com.

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