News in Brief February 2014 Reform, don’t end zero-hours contracts, says Resolution Foundation A leading think tank has rejected calls for a ban on zero-hours contracts, instead calling for legislation to protect the rights of workers on the contracts. The Resolution Foundation report, released this month, argues that workers on zero-hours workers should be given a fixed-hours contract after a year in the job. They call for a ban on the use of the exclusivity clauses, preventing employees from taking on extra work elsewhere. The report also highlights the need for employees to be given a better understanding of their rights and for good practice to be developed for employers. The controversial contracts which do not guarantee a minimum number of hours a week have been heavily criticised by trade unions who argue they are insecure, exploitative and prone to abuse. The Labour Party has promised to ban the use of exclusivity clauses and the Government have begun a review into the contracts. Previous research conducted by the CIPD has shown that the prevalence of zero-hours contracts has been hugely under-estimated. However, they found that most workers on the contracts were satisfied with their jobs. Continued NHS pay squeeze provokes strike threat A further round of below-inflation pay increases for NHS workers in England has sparked anger among the trade unions. This month, the government announced a 1%. However, contrary to the recommendations of the NHS pay review body, they plan to withhold this increase from any staff also receiving the automatic incremental pay rises they are entitled to. The offer remains below the rate of inflation, adding to a lengthy pay squeeze in the sector. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt argued withholding the increase from some staff was necessary in order to save jobs and protect the standard of care. However, trade unions in the NHS responded by saying they would consult members over possible industrial action. This was shortly followed by the announcement from the Local Government Association that it will also offer a 1% pay rise for council workers. Again, the move was criticised by local government trade unions for prolonging the pay squeeze in the sector. However, workers on lower incomes will be offered a higher increase of 4%. Despite the continuing pay restraint in the public sector, there are signs that the pay squeeze may be starting to ease. Figures released this week by ONS showed that CPI inflation had fallen to 1.7%, its lowest level since 2010. Although this remains above the average wages increase, the gap is narrowing and real incomes are expected to rise again soon. TUPE Changes come into effect Changes to the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations came into force recently. BIS have published a guide to the changes, available here and there’s more detail and analysis available here. The changes in the regulations now ensure that any redundancies resulting from the transfer will not automatically be deemed unfair. The regulations make clear that for there to be a service provision change, the role carried out by the employee being transferred must be ‘fundamentally the same’ as those under the previous organisation. It allows for contractual variations if there is an economic, technical or organisational reason for them to take place, and if both employer and employee agree on them. Variations to collective agreements will be permitted if the change happens over a year after the transfer and if the new terms are ‘no less favourable’ to employees. Under changes to the collective redundancy law, where there are 20 or more transferring employees being made redundant, the transferee organisation can undertake pre-transfer consultation with those affected if both the employees and the two employers consent. The effects of the changes on employers should not be dramatic as they are not as significant as those originally proposed by the government. However, some of the amendments may be open to challenge in Europe as they may contravene EU legislation such as the Acquired Rights Directive 2001.