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The Equality Act 2010 - "the death of the office joke?"

  • Press Releases 4 novembre 2010 4 novembre 2010

The Clyde & Co Employment and Immigration team takes a look at the key issues affecting global businesses

While the Daily Mail's recent office joke headline succeeded in setting the hares loose, the Clyde & Co Employment and Immigration team took a measured approach to the Equality Act at its ever-popular review of new legislation. The team's Employment Law Review provides clients with a summary of the key legislation and cases which will impact their businesses in the forthcoming year.

Hilary Griffin discussed the Equality Act 2010, the majority of which came into force on 1 October 2010. The Act seeks to adopt a single approach to the different areas of discrimination law, all of which are now contained in the one Act. The Act has caused quite a stir, with some quarters of the press excitedly predicting discrimination against white men and office environments where banter leads to discrimination claims. In reality, the most significant provision introduced by the Act is the new prohibition on pre-employment health questionnaires. Except in very limited circumstances, an employer who asks an applicant questions relating to their health before the applicant is offered a position risks facing a claim for disability discrimination.Companies must therefore ensure that their pre-employment procedures are checked and brought up-to-date particularly since compensation for disability discrimination is not subject to a financial cap.

Steve Blunt considered whether the UK faces a 'winter of discontent' involving widespread industrial action. He examined the law surrounding industrial action and recent cases in which employers have successfully challenged the lawfulness of such action. He also considered some useful practical points on how to prepare from industrial action, whether affected by direct action from one's own employees or indirectly by industrial action elsewhere.

Peter Roser talked about the forthcoming Agency Workers Regulations which will come into effect in 2011. These provide that, subject to completing a 12-week qualifying period, agency workers will be entitled to basic working and employment conditions that are no less favourable than if they had been recruited directly by the hirer. Hirers should review their use of agency workers and consider how it will affect their entitlement to pay and benefits.

Peter also spoke about the Government's intention to remove the default retirement age (DRA) by 1 October 2011. This means that employers will no longer be able to maintain a compulsory retirement age for their workforce of 65 or above. The transition period for the removal of the DRA will start in April 2011. Employers who wish to retire an employee should start the notification period before 6 April 2011.

Jonathan Chaimovic explained how employers might avoid the immigration cap. He explained that UK employers of global workforces should now be taking steps to protect the ongoing permission to work in the UK for their migrant workforce, as well as complete any intended recruitment of those from outside Europe. The Permanent Cap, to apply from 1 April 2011, will place even more restrictions on those UK employers wishing to recruit from the migrant workforce.

If you have any queries on any of the topics covered at this event, please contact Hilary Griffin, our Employment & Immigration PSL