From: Rod Keller (email@example.com
Date: 2002-01-04 10:19:14 PST
Legal and Finance: The working world will embrace variety
Birmingham Post (UK)
January 4, 2002 http://beta.yellowbrix.com/pages/newsreal/Story.nsp?story_id=26633565&ID=newsreal&scategory=Internet&
Rastafarians, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology could all benefit from new Government anti-discrimination laws.
And law firm DLA is warning employers they cannot afford to ignore the legislation's massive impact.
Vital consultations that could shape the future of employment in the workplace are currently taking place between now and March 31.
Alison Rendell, an employment lawyer at the Birmingham office of DLA, said the purpose of the consultation exercise was to get input from external sources before the Government drafts new anti- discriminationlaws in employment and training on the grounds of age, religion and belief, sexual orientation, disability or race.
The legislation must be introduced to comply with European law.
The consultation is a Government cross departmental exercise led by the Department of Trade and Industry under Minister for Equality Barbara Roche. The DTI has responsibility for age, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. The Department of Work and Pensions has responsibility for disability and the Home Office for race.
Miss Rendell said: 'The Government is contacting around 5,000 people in networks that it has already established, and is seeing opinions from contacts such as the CBI and chambers of commerce in the regions, but there is also scope for employers to have their say.'
After March 31 the timetable for the implementation on race, sexualorientation and religion includes further consultation on the proposals in 2002 before legislation is put to Parliament.
In relation to disability, small employers' exemption - small employers currently meaning those with 15 employees or less - will end in October 2004 and other changes will be made at the same time. On age, the Government has said it will 'make full use' of the time available until 2006 to prepare and introduce new legislation.
The Government estimates the changes will cost pounds 157 per employer, whereas the benefits could amount to pounds 567 million.
Miss Rendell said: 'Anti discrimination measures are likely to have a major impact on workplace practice. 'For example, religious beliefs will be protected and this could include such groups as Rastafarians, who are not as a group currently protected bythe race discrimination legislation, and Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology, as well as some quite obscure groups.
'In addition, employers need to consider that certain staff may have a requirement to pray several times a day and that both space and time may have to be set aside for this. This could have implications on production lines and in manufacturing situations.
'Leave for religious observance is also being discussed and could have a big impact on employers if they are bound to grant such holidays. Where staff are expected to wear a uniform at work, there could be serious implications for those whose clothing is dictated by custom and practice in their religion.'
There will also be discussion of the implications of the Directive on benefits available to opposite and same sex partners under occupational pension schemes.