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New laws affecting small businesses in 2006

Business legislation underwent some significant changes in 2006. Here are the main ones that might affect your business:

Fire Safety Law
Effective from October 1 2006. Greater emphasis is placed on fire prevention. Fire certificates have been abolished and ceased to have legal status.

Guidance Notes are available to ensure compliance. These three guides may be of particular interest: Age Discrimination in Employment and Vocational Training
New discrimination laws also became effective October 1 2006:
  • Prohibit unjustified age discrimination in employment and vocational training
  • Require employers who set their retirement age below the default age of 65 to justify or change it
  • Introduce a new duty on employers to consider an employee's request to continue working beyond retirement
  • Require employers to inform employees in writing, and at least 6 months in advance, of their intended retirement date. This will allow people to plan for their retirement
  • Remove the upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights, giving older workers the same rights to claim unfair dismissal or receive a redundancy payment as younger workers, unless there is a genuine retirement
  • Include provisions relating to service related benefits and occupational pensions.
The regulations have removed age limits for Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and the Statutory Redundancy Payments Scheme.

ACAS has great advice on employing older people

Agepositive, this government agency runs the very successful site called Be Ready. Information and legal facts on age issues can be found there. Other tips and contacts should be read also.

National Minimum Wage
Set to increase in 1 October 2007, this is the legal right covering almost all workers above compulsory school leavers age. Minimum wage rates apply to different groups of workers:
  • The main rate for workers aged 22 and over is £5.52 as of 1 october 2007
  • The development rate for 18-21 year olds is £4.60 as of 1 october 2007
  • The development rate for 16-17 years old is £3.40 as of 1 october 2007
More information on the national minimum wage rates

Patents and Trademarks
The rules covering patents changed on 1 October 2006. Rules were consolidated and made simpler to improve flexibility, and bring them into line with best practice.

Small Business Rates Relief Scheme
Changes were made to reduce the need to register annually for small business rate relief. The aim is that only one application will be needed to cover the years 2007/8 to 2009/10 inclusive, and from 2010/11 that only one application will be required during the life of a valuation list, which is 5 years.
The obligation is on ratepayers to advise Local Authority on any changes that may affect rates.

Sexual Orientation, Religion, or Beliefs
Existing laws extended to cover employment regulations. It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion, or belief in the provision of services. These laws became effective 1 October 2006
For up-to-date changes relating to employment law, general law affecting small business and specific industry changes register with Business Link's regulation email alert service.
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