The government hasn’t proposed banning unions

14 September 2022
What was claimed

The government has proposed banning unions and introducing a “996 working hour system”.

Our verdict

The government has not opened a consultation on these changes to the law, nor are they real proposals. Images shared online suggesting otherwise have been digitally manipulated.

Posts shared hundreds of times on Twitter falsely claim that the government has opened a consultation on proposals for a new “996 working hour system” and a ban on trade unions. 

Some of the posts imply that these proposals have been shared quietly while the news coverage is focused on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. 

One version of the post, which has also been shared on Facebook, impersonates the Cabinet Office website and claims that “on 13 September the government published a Green Paper on reforming the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.” 

This is not a real screenshot, and the image appears to have been digitally manipulated. There is no trace of a document titled “Reformation of Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992”, as in the screenshot, on the Cabinet Office website. 

The Cabinet Office also did not publish a Green Paper (a consultation document on policy and legislative proposals) on reforms to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 on 13 September. 

The only items published on that date by the department were both about arrangements following the Queen’s death. At the time of publication, the Cabinet Office hasn’t published a policy paper or consultation document since 31 August

The Cabinet Office confirmed it does not recognise the claims circulating on social media. 

A similar post, which appears to be a screenshot of an article published by the Guardian, also claims that Prime Minister Liz Truss “wants a 996 working hour system for Britain”. 

A Google search for this headline reveals zero results, and there is no evidence that the Guardian ever published this article. There are also other indications that this image has been manipulated, such as the full stop at the end of the headline which is not consistent with the Guardian’s style, and the fact that this claim has not been reported by any other news outlet. 

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What is the 996 working hour system?

The sub-heading of this fake Guardian article goes on to say: “The 996 working hour system is a work schedule practised by the People’s Republic of China.”

The “996 working hour system”—where employees work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week—has been reported to be part of the work culture in some Chinese companies.

In 2019, billionaire co-founder of e-commerce website Alibaba Jack Ma attracted significant news coverage for saying that it would be “a "blessing" to have the opportunity to work within the 996 system. 

But it is not legally enforced by the state and it was reported in November that a series of legal rulings made by Chinese authorities on overtime disputes found the practice to be illegal. 

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