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Getting to grips with new employment laws

14th Aug 2003
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2003 has so far been a busy year for employers having to get to grips with new employment laws - and the pace looks set to continue. The Government has recently published a number of consultation documents on forthcoming regulations and proposals. HR Zone provides a summary of what’s in store and where you can obtain relevant guidance.

Age discrimination

On 2 July 2003, the Government issued its long awaited consultation paper, Equality and Diversity: Age Matters, setting out its proposals to combat age discrimination in the workplace. Consultation will take place until 20 October 2003.

The Government has until 1 October 2006 to implement the age strand of the European Employment Directive (2000/78/EC) - when age discrimination in employment and vocational training will become unlawful.

So what steps can employers take to start preparing for the new legislation? In a contributed feature to HR Zone last month, Rachel Heenan, of law firm Beachcroft Wansbroughs, summarised the Government's proposals to combat age discrimination and provided employers with some practical pointers on auditing policies, monitoring, recruitment, selection, promotion, training, redundancy and retirement. Read the feature here.

Sexual orientation

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which outlaw discrimination in employment and vocational training on the grounds of sexual orientation, come into force on 1 December 2003.

ACAS has drafted good practice guidance on putting the regulations into practice and also frequently asked questions on the subject.

Religion

Hot on the heels of the Sexual Orientation Regulations are the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations which will come into force on 2 December 2003. These will outlaw discrimination in employment and vocational training on the grounds of religion or belief.

ACAS good practice guidance on putting these regulations into practice has also been published.

Statutory dispute resolution procedures

Last month, we reported that plans for a radical overhaul of dispute resolution procedures had been published and consultation is now taking place. The regulations are due to come into force on 1 October 2004.

Information and Consultation Directive

The Government plans to implement a European Directive on information and consultation by 2005. See the HR Zone related story Partnership working on the agenda.

European Works Councils

The Government has published a discussion document preparing for the European Commission review.

Minimum wage

The 2003 Regulations increase the minimum hourly rate of the national minimum wage from £4.20 to £4.50 from 1 October 2003. They also increase the rate to be paid to those who qualify for the national minimum wage at a different rate, from £3.60 to £3.80.

Recently in force...

Equal pay amendments

Changes brought in on 19 July under the Equal Pay Act 1970 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 mean that companies now face having to pay employees up to six years back-pay - instead of the previous two - and could witness a rise in the number of unequal pay claims.

Find out more in our story Equal pay changes come into force which also tells you where you can obtain guidance on good equal pay practice.

Amendments to race discrimination law

New race regulations came into force on 19 July which give wider rights to employees. The main changes are that they introduce a new definition of indirect race discrimination, a statutory definition of racial harassment and put the onus on employers to prove they did not discriminate.

The HR Zone item Employers face greater risk of race claims advises employers to examine their informal practices as well as formal conditions and requirements and points to guidance on the regulations.

Extension of Working Time Directive

On 1 August the EU Working Time Directive was extended to those sectors previously excluded from working time measures. See the HR Zone story Extension of Working Time Directive for more details.

Stay tuned to HR Zone for further employment law updates and let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to cover. Don't forget that you can always post up an employment law related question in our Any Answers area of the site.

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