ACAS Guidance for new Discrimination
regulations on Religion/Belief and Sexual Orientation
December 2003 sees the introduction of new regulations
outlawing discrimination against workers because of their
sexual orientation, or their religion or belief.
Employers will no longer be able to refuse to employ people
because fo their sexual orientation or religious beliefs,
withhold training opportunities and promotion, or deny benefits
they offer other colleagues. Importantly, the employer will
also have a responsibility to protect staff against bullying
or harassment suffered because of their sexuality or religion.
Following consultation ACAS has produced some extremely
useful draft guidance on the regulations. The booklets are
available on the ACAS website: http://www.acas.org.uk/art13.html
HOW MUCH IS THE MINIMUM WAGE?
The National Minimum Wage Act came into effect on 1 April
1999. Currently there are three rates: an adult rate of
£4.20 an hour, and a development rate of £3.60 for 18-21
year olds and those on accredited training and in the first
six months of a new job.
From 1 October 2003 these will be uprated to:
· a main rate of £4.50 an hour for
those 22 and over
- a 'development' rate of £3.80 an hour for those
18 to 21
- a 'development' rate of £3.80 an hour for those
who have reached the age of 22, and have started a new
job with a new employer, and are taking part in accredited
training. This rate can only be paid for the first
six months of a new job, after which the worker must get
at least the standard minimum wage of £4.50 an hour. (currently
The main rate is expected to rise to £4.85, and the development
rate to £4.10, from October 2004, but the government will
only confirm this in early 2004 after the Low Pay commission
has looked at the economic circumstances at the time.
Health & Safety
Inspection rates drop
The Health and Safety Commission (HSC)
today are concerned over the growing trend among local authorities
to reduce the priority given to health and safety enforcement
resulting in a 10% drop in inspection rates.
The reduction, taken from statistics issued under the HELA
report issued last month, shows that the reduction also
means that there are less full time equivalent officers
responsible for health and safety than there were five years
ago. The role of local authorities has never been so important
yet the general response from local government is to further
reduce the priority it gives to health and safety enforcement.
The Commission is currently reviewing the role of local
authorities as part of its strategic planning for 2004 and
these statistics increase the potential for health and safety
enforcement to be delivered centrally and be removed from
There is a well-recognised recruitment crisis in local
government particularly in relation to regulatory services.
Many authorities have increased the use of agency staff
to undertake inspections and are attempting to find innovative
ways to maximise effectiveness. These authorities are leading
the way but there are many who seem unconcerned about reducing
accidents and ill health in the workplace.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Andrew Smith
has announced new measures to protect members of pension
schemes and make it easier for companies to run the schemes.
· Pension Protection Fund – the first ever protection
scheme for Defined Benefit pensions in the UK protecting
pension rights accrued when a company goes bust.
· Full Buy Out – ensuring that where a solvent company
chooses to wind up its scheme it should fully buy out members'
· New Pensioner Regulator – with new activity, targeted
on badly run and high risk schemes, putting consumers first
and ensuring secure schemes continue with unnecessary regulatory
· Changes to the Priority Order – guarantees remaining
assets of a scheme in wind up are distributed fairly among
the workforce reflecting the length of service of employees.
Overall the proposals could save business up to £155 million.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "We welcome
the proposed introduction of a pension protection fund (PPF)
to guarantee members a specified minimum level of pension
if their employer becomes insolvent. We have been campaigning
for a PPF for many years."
However the TUC are "strongly opposed to any increase
in public service pension schemes' retirement age from 60
Too Busy to Relax
UK workers are too busy to take their holidays,
with almost £4bn worth of work going unpaid each year, new
research claims. A poll by employee benefits firm 'youatwork'
shows that employees fail to take three months of holiday
entitlement over the course of their working lives, with
men the worst offenders.
EQUALITY AT WORK
Government guidance on the right to request flexible
The Department of Trade and Industry has published a set
of forms that can be used by employees to request the right
to work flexibly under the new Employment Act if they are
the parent of a child under the age of 6 or disabled child
under 18. The forms are not mandatory but are useful as
they set out the requirements an employee must meet before
he/she can apply to work flexibly. However, UNISON believes
that it is better to negotiate with the employer at a collective
bargaining level for the right to work flexibly, through
work-life balance and family friendly policies. The forms
can be accessed at: http://www.dti.gov.uk/er/individual/flexforms.htm
Some more equal than others
In an equal pay claim an administration
officer employed by a school board was not able to use bursars
engaged by the local education authority as comparators.
The woman was engaged as an administrative
officer by the board. Having participated in a job evaluation
scheme run by her local county council, her post was classified
as that of an SO2 bursar. Relying on that evaluation, she
requested the governors pay her an equivalent salary. They
She brought an equal pay claim and, relying
on the decision in South Ayrshire Council vs Morton, 2001,
the tribunal found in her favour on the basis that there
was a sufficient connection in a loose and non technological
sense between (her) employment and a comparator from another
The school board appealed and the appeal
The European Court of Justice decision
in Lawrence vs Regent Office Care Limited 2002 had clarified
that an employee relying on a comparator employed by a different
employer must show a single body is responsible for the
difference in pay, otherwise no-one is in a position to
remedy the inequality. The woman's salary was fixed by the
Governors, while the bursars' salary was not.
Move over Cilla Black, the nation's personnel departments
seem to be doing a better job at matchmaking.
A survey of 10,000 users of web service AOL has found
that nearly three-quarters of
Britons have had a fling with a work colleague, with
28% still in a relationship that started at work. According
to AOL's Josa Young: "The workplace has become one of
the most popular environments to meet your life partner.
Perhaps the long hours people work these days might mean
we don't have any choice now, but to fit our relationships
in between meetings.