Making Sense of Important Employment-Related Legislation when Running a Business

If you have set up a business and it has become successful, there will be a point when you want to start employing staff to cope with the expanding workload. Whether you are looking for offices to let in Suffolk, or further afield, it is important to know the various laws and workplace regulations that will ensure all staff and prospective employees are treated fairly. These acts encompass a wide range of issues including working hours, numbers of holidays, breaks at work, health and safety, sick days and discrimination (including disability and gender discrimination).

Here The Gattinetts gives an overview of some of the acts relevant to your organisation. This article is meant as a guide only and just briefly touches on some of the relevant legislation. It is important to seek advice from official bodies to keep your organisation up-to-date with the changing laws.

If you are looking for offices to let in Suffolk, The Gattinetts presents the ideal choice for business start-ups and expanding firms as we have premises for small to medium companies employing up to 20 people. As our rental offices are situated half-way between Ipswich and Colchester, the premises are well placed to draw on a workforce – and customers – from Suffolk or Essex.

The Equality Act  – This came into effect in 2010, bringing together a series of acts including the Race Relations Act 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and 1986, and the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2005/6. Its purpose is to protect staff from discrimination on various grounds which include age, gender, race, sex, disability, pregnancy, and gender reassignment.

It covers discrimination of all kinds including direct, perceived, associative (such as being treated unfairly if a family member is affected by an illness or disability), indirect, as well as victimisation and harassment at work; all of which create an unbearable environment for people to work in.

Employers are required to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments for people with disabilities so they are not put at a disadvantage. Employers can’t ask an applicant about their health or disability at the job interview stage – they can only ask if adjustments need to be made for applicants.

The act is to grant employees the right to be treated freely in the workplace. It requires staff recruitment and dismissals, redundancy and overall dealings with staff to be free of discrimination.

The Working Time Regulations (1998) – The law states that employees can’t work for more than 48 hours within a seven-day period (unless the worker agrees and they put it in writing). There are exceptions to this rule, including members of the armed forces and doctors in training. Employees are required to have at least an 11-hour rest period within 24 hours worked.

In addition to this, the regulations entitle workers to a 20-minute minimum break, every six hours. And, each year full-time employees can take a minimum of 28 days paid holiday leave a year (the employer can choose whether or not this includes the bank holidays).

Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 – A pregnant woman is entitled to a combined total of 52 weeks statutory maternity leave, which they don’t have to take but they must take two weeks off after the baby is born. This includes ordinary and additional maternity leave.

In addition to this, a pregnant worker is also entitled to attend ante-natal appointments and to receive maternity pay.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – This particular Act ensures the health and safety of employees and visitors to the workplace. It covers a wide range of regulations including working at height, maintenance of safety equipment, removal of asbestos, and so on.

Employers have a duty to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment for employees and staff. Everyone must comply with the Act including trainees, employees and the self-employed.

If an employee is injured in the workplace and starts legal proceedings against the company, they can’t be discriminated against (or bullied) as the result of this.

The Workplace Regulations 1992 – This act lays down the law about a host of workplace related issues including lighting, cleanliness, room size and temperature.

The regulations state that temperatures must be ‘reasonable’ for workers. Employees should supply their staff with a sufficient number of thermometers so they can check the temperatures.

The Approved Code of Practice specifies the ideal workplace temperature to be at least 16C (or 13C when the jobs involve a lot of physical activity). However, it goes on to point out that even this temperature may not be adequate.

Steps should also be taken if the temperature is too high and too uncomfortable to work in.

Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment Regulations) 1992 – This serves to avoid injury and ill-health caused by working in front of computers, such as eye strain, neck ache and RSI (repetitive strain injury).

Employers must take steps to avoid this by allowing for breaks during prolonged use of the screen, and to set up workstations properly.

To find out more about this and other regulations, there is a UK Government site that gives up-to-date information on employing people. Meanwhile, if you are looking for offices to let in Suffolk, click on the link below.

The Gattinetts Business Centre can offer a range of high-quality rural offices for Suffolk and Essex companies. Follow the link above to find out more about the type of office rental units we have available at our base in East Bergholt.

Health and Safety Laws for Small Businesses