Employment Law changes on 1st October 2010

United Kingdom

Friday 1st October 2010 will see the coming into force of various changes to employment legislation, including major provisions of the Equality Act 2010, consolidating of disability regulations and the annual increase in the national minimum wage.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 simplifies and harmonises the different strands of discrimination law that have developed over the last 40 years, and also introduces some key new initiatives to tackle actual and perceived inequality in the workplace. The Act:

  • Sets out the basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Introduces a new concept of discrimination arising from disability to restore the protection from disability-related discrimination (lost as a result of the decision in London Borough of Lewisham -v- Malcolm [2008])
  • Prevents employers from asking pre-employment health questions except in specified circumstances
  • Makes pay secrecy clauses unenforceable in specified circumstances
  • Gives employment tribunals new powers to make recommendations relating to the whole workforce
  • Allows voluntary positive action

A number of other areas of the Act remain under consideration by the government as to how they should be implemented, and these will not come into effect on 1st October 2010. These areas include:

  • The duty on public authorities to aim to reduce socio-economic inequalities
  • The potential for dual discrimination claims
  • Requirements for employers with 250 or more employees to disclose gender pay information
  • Provisions relating to positive action in recruitment and promotion

Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010

The numerous regulations which currently support the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 will be repealed on 1st October 2010, when the new regulations will come into effect. The new regulations support the disability discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010. The only major change is the introduction of the new categories of persons with a visual impairment deemed to have a disability. This change is intended to widen the scope of protection for the sight-impaired.

Increases to National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Amendment) Regulations 2010 bring into effect increases to the national minimum wage. The new hourly rates will be:

Standard rate (for workers aged 21 and over): £5.93, up from £5.80
Development rate (for workers aged between 18 and 20): £4.92, up from £4.83
Young workers rate (for workers aged under 18 but above compulsory school age, who are not apprentices): £3.64, up from £3.57
Apprentice rate (new: for apprentices under 19 years of age or apprentices aged 19 or over but in the first year of their apprenticeship): £2.50

Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2010

These regulations introduce some largely administrative changes to the way in which employment agencies and employment businesses operate. These include:

  • A cooling-off period for work-seekers looking for employment in the performance or fashion industries
  • A requirement for employment agencies and employment businesses to obtain a work-seekers’ agreement to basic terms before providing any services to them
  • A requirement for employment agencies to carry out suitability checks on work-seekers
  • Changes to the restrictions on the charging of fees to work-seekers by employment agencies and employment businesses
  • Changes to the regulations governing advertisements of jobs