In March this year the Information Commissioner took enforcement action against the Consulting Association, which had been operating a secret blacklist of employees in the construction industry, including details of trade union activity. Today the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has announced that new regulations will be introduced to outlaw the use of blacklists in this way. There is a power to regulate under section 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999, but so far it has never been used. A consultation exercise is promised for early summer. Draft regulations were previously prepared in 2003, and there was full consultation; so this time round the consultation will be shorter than the normal 12 week period.
It is very interesting to see such a direct link between action by the ICO, and new regulations. The Government line had previously been that there was no evidence that regulations were needed. The ICO has now provided them with their missing evidence.
Blacklists have a long history. The Economic League attracted controversy in the 1980s (and was eventually disbanded in 1994); apparently it had a list of 22,000 political subversives, including one Gordon Brown MP.
Employment vetting is much in the news at present and is clearly attracting great interest. We are currently considering an exciting project in this area: watch this space!