Friday, February 09, 2007

Keep your HR policies upto date

On 1st October 2006, the new age discrimination legislation was the primary focus of attention and one might be forgiven for only having glanced at other provisions which took effect that day.

Alongside a fire safety overhaul and national minimum wage uprating, a raft of provisions flowing from the Work and Families Act 2006 aim at providing greater choice for families looking to balance work and caring responsibilities.

Age discrimination

It is now unlawful to discriminate on grounds of age against those in and seeking employment and vocational training.

Regulations were introduced in October 2006 to combat age discrimination in employment and vocational training. The regulations apply to all employers in the private and public sectors.The new legislation provides for a default retirement age of 65. Compulsory retirement ages below 65 are unlawful unless objectively justified. In addition, employees have the right to request to work beyond that age. Employers have a duty to consider such requests.

The regulations affect all areas of employment including:

  • recruitment, terms and conditions, promotion and transfers
  • the provision of training
  • the provision of benefits
  • dismissal
  • retirement
  • occupational pensions.

You should check there are no hidden age barriers in your recruitment processes. You must also make sure that your redundancy procedures are based on business needs rather than age and review existing pension schemes in order to identify and remove any unlawful age discrimination.

Work and Families Act 2006

From April 2007, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay and Maternity Allowance will be increased from six months to nine months, as part of a package of family friendly measures introduced by the Work and Families Act 2006. It is proposed that this will increase to a year's paid leave by the end of the Parliament alongside a new right to an additional period of paternity leave for fathers. This will enable fathers to benefit from leave and statutory pay if the mother returns to work after six months but before the end of her maternity leave period.

Other measures include:

The introduction of "Keeping in Touch" days so that where employees and employers agree, a women on maternity leave can go into work for a few days without losing her right to maternity leave or a week's statutory pay.

The right of carers to request flexible working hours.

It is estimated that these changes will benefit around 400,000 mothers each year.

National Minimum Wage increased

The National Minimum Wage rose to £5.35 per hour from 1 October 2006, benefiting around 1.3 million workers. The adult rate of the National Minimum Wage increased from £5.05 to £5.35 per hour, while the youth rate, paid to 18-21 year-olds, went up from £4.25 per hour to £4.45. The rate for 16-17 year olds increased from £3.00 an hour to £3.30 per hour. When the National Minimum Wage was launched in 1999 the main rate was £3.60 per hour and the 18-21 year-old rate was £3.00 per hour. Since then an estimated one million workers per year have benefited from the National Minimum Wage. Before its introduction, wages of as little as £1.20 per hour were common and legal.

Fire Safety

All employers and owners of non-domestic premises have to appoint someone who will be responsible for fire safety. The onus will be on that person to assess fire risks, take practical measures to identify, reduce and remove them and to record the fire risk assessment undertaken. Under these new rules, which came into force on 1 October 2006 under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, as amended, premises will be subject to inspection by appointed enforcers to check compliance with the law. Fire certificates will no longer be issued and those previously in force will have no legal status.

Thanks to Clickdocs for this update


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