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December 2, 2009

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New regulations to ban blacklisting of workers

The practice of blacklisting will be officially outlawed through new

regulations that could be brought into effect early next year.

The Government announced its plans yesterday (2 December) as part of its response to a public consultation on new regulations, which were drafted following evidence that a number of employers in the construction sector had been unlawfully vetting workers.

The regulations will:

  • make it unlawful for organisations to turn down for employment, or sack individuals as a result of appearing on a blacklist;
  • make it unlawful for employment agencies to refuse to provide a service on the basis of appearing on a blacklist; and
  • enable individuals or unions to pursue compensation, or solicit action, against those who compile, distribute, or use blacklists.

The regulations provide three new jurisdictions for the employment tribunal, enabling individuals to complain if they are refused employment, dismissed, or suffer any other adverse effect in relation to a blacklist. The Government has promised to set a minimum amount of compensation — initially at £5000 — in each tribunal jurisdiction. It has also vowed that once the regulations come into force, an Order in Council will be introduced, which will have the effect of extending the regulations to offshore oil installations.

Employment relations minister Lord Young said: “Blacklisting someone because they are a member of a trade union is totally unacceptable.

“There is already legal protection against the misuse of people’s personal details. We will now strengthen the law by introducing new regulations to outlaw the compilation, dissemination, and use of blacklists. The Government is determined to stamp out this despicable practice, and our legislative proposals are a proportionate and robust response.”

The Government had originally intended to outlaw blacklisting as part of the Employment Relations Act 1999. However, these specific regulations were never introduced, as no definitive evidence of the practice was found.

The latest regulatory push has been prompted by the discovery in March this year that more than 40 building firms were using a blacklist, which contained the names and information of more than 3000 construction workers. The operator of the blacklist, Ian Kerr, was fined £5000 for breaching the Data Protection Act in July.

Construction union UCATT welcomed the new regulations but still believes the regulations should be extended to cover all activities associated with trade unions. Said general secretary Alan Ritchie: “Blacklisting is a disgraceful, underhand practice. Until early this year most major construction companies were involved in the blacklisting of workers. The introduction of laws that are designed to prevent blacklisting is welcome and long overdue. Never again must the lives of workers and their families be ruined because of blacklisting.”

The regulations need to be debated by both Houses of Parliament before becoming law, but they could come into effect early in 2010.

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