Clarkslegal LLP - Solicitors in Reading and London

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Global labour standards will have a bigger impact on the UK, whatever the outcome of the election

22 November 2019 #Press

As we have covered this week, the Labour Party has set out a radical manifesto for the future of UK employment law and there has been a lot of focus on the changes to laws affecting trade unions.


It is worth picking up on further comments by the shadow chancellor today. When he was put on the spot regarding Labour’s position on secondary picketing, he refused to be pinned down but did state: “We will make sure that people have the right, as in the ILO [International Labour Organisation] conventions to withdraw their labour.”


The ILO is the UN agency which sets international labour standards and monitors compliance with them. It is important that employers understand that ILO standards will have an increasing impact on UK businesses after the December 2019 election in either of the two most likely scenarios.


If the December 2019 election leads to the UK leaving the EU on 31 January 2020, the UK will become a ‘third country’. When making trade deals with third countries, the EU uses ILO standards to measure compliance with level playing field requirements. The higher the degree of access the EU agrees to the single market, the more stringent the level playing field requirements that will apply.


Alternatively, if the election leads to a Labour-led government, it is Labour Party policy to ratify ILO conventions, such as the most recent convention on violence and harassment in the world of work.


Without taking political sides, it is worth pointing out that that there are fundamental ILO Conventions on freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining but there is no ILO Convention explicitly addressing any “right to strike”. This is of course a contested area between unions, governments and employers. The only consensus is that at present strike law is regulated at a national, rather than global, level.


For over 20 years, Clarkslegal has been an integral part of the UK employers’ delegation to the ILO. This gives Clarkslegal unique insight into global horizons that can be expected to affect UK employers. Contact Michael Sippitt or Russell Dann for advice on ILO standards and their use in codes of conduct, framework agreements with trade unions, supply chain governance and social compliance initiatives.

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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Russell  Dann

Russell Dann

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