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New employment legislation comes into force

 

New legislation aimed at preventing discrimination in the workplace has come into effect, despite business concerns over the issue.

 

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October and brings together nine different employment laws into a single Act.

 

Under the Act, employers are banned from imposing secrecy clauses to prevent staff discussing their own pay, enabling male and female employees to compare their salaries.

 

The new rules also aim to give greater protection to people with disabilities, by restricting the circumstances in which employers can question job applicants about their health.

 

While the Government claims the Act will make it easier for firms to comply with the law on discrimination, some businesses have warned that the changes will add to the ‘red tape’ burden.

‘The Government's own impact assessment shows that this is going to cost £190m just for businesses to understand the legislation, and this at a time when we really need them to be concentrating on creating private sector jobs and driving economic recovery,’ said Abigail Morris from the British Chambers of Commerce.

Meanwhile, changes to the national minimum wage (NMW) have also come into effect.

 

From 1 October the adult rate of the NMW rises from £5.80 to £5.93 an hour and for the first time 21-year-olds are included in the main rate.

 

The NMW for those aged 18 to 20 has increased from £4.83 to £4.92, and 16 and 17-year-olds are now entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £3.64 – up from £3.57.

 

In addition, the Government has introduced a new minimum wage of £2.50 an hour for apprentices.

 

It will apply to apprentices who are under the age of 19, or those aged 19 and over who are in the first year of their apprenticeship.