Seven legislation changes that you need to know about…
1st October 2015 was a big day for new legislation coming into force. We’ve put together an overview of some of the most important changes everyone needs to know about.
Change in Law for Self-Employed Workers
From 1st October 2015, health and safety law no longer applies to an estimated 1.7 million self-employed people.
In 2011, the Löfstedt Review recommended that self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to other workers or members of the public, should be exempt from health and safety law. This recommendation was accepted by Government.
Health and safety law will no longer apply to self-employed people such as novelists, journalists, graphic designers, accountants, confectioners, financial advisors and online traders. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015 sets out a list of specific work activities that the law still applies to. This includes agriculture, asbestos work, construction, gas work, genetically modified organisms and railways or if the work activity poses a risk to the health and safety of others.
For health and safety law purposes, ‘self-employed’ means that you do not work under a contract of employment and work only for yourself.
Smoking in Cars with Children
In England and Wales, from 1st October 2015 it will be illegal to smoke in a private vehicle containing under-18s and to fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle carrying someone aged under 18.
The new law is being introduced following a prolonged campaign by children’s health experts and by health organisations such as the British Medical Association. The penalties for both offences would be a fixed penalty notice of £50, or a fine on conviction should the case go to court.
Public health minister Jane Ellison stated: “second-hand smoke is a real threat to children’s health, and we want them to grow up free from the risks of smoking. The only effective way to protect children is to prevent them breathing second-hand smoke and our plans to stop smoking in cars carrying children will help us to do this.”
Sikh Safety Helmet Exemption Extended to All Workplaces
The exemption of turban-wearing Sikhs from wearing a safety helmet on construction sites was extended to all workplaces from 1st October 2015. Prior to this, the exemption for Sikhs from the requirement to wear a safety helmet only applied to construction sites.
This employment law change means that Sikhs will be able to wear a turban, and not a safety helmet, in workplaces like warehouses, factories and vehicles involved in transportation.
There are some limited cases where Sikh workers will still need to wear head protection, but these are mainly restricted to those working in emergency response or members of the armed forces. This exemption applies only to the followers of the Sikh religion and not to any other religious group.
National Minimum Wage Increases
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) requires that employers pay workers a minimum hourly rate of pay. Since October 2004, this has covered most workers over the age of 16. The self-employed, specified vocations and certain other circumstances are excluded. Employers cannot opt out of the legislation.
The minimum wage rate is set by the Government and is subject to periodical variation. The rates are generally updated from 1st October each year. The following National Minimum Wage rates will apply from 1st October 2015.
- The adult rate will increase from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour.
- The rate for 18-20 year olds will increase from £5.13 to £5.30 per hour.
- The rate for 16-17 year olds will increase from £3.79 to £3.87 per hour.
- The apprentice rate will increase from £2.73 to £3.30 per hour.
The accommodation offset will increase from £5.08 to £5.35 per day.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
With effect from 1st October 2015, new legislation now requires landlords to install working smoke alarms on all floors of their property, and carbon monoxide alarms are also required in all rooms with solid fuel burning appliances. Landlords are required to test these alarms at the start of every tenancy. This brings private rented properties into line with existing building regulations that already require newly-built homes to have hard-wired smoke alarms installed.
England’s 46 fire and rescue authorities are expected to support private landlords in their own areas to meet their new responsibilities with the provision of free alarms, with grant funding from government. The Government says the new rule will prevent 25 deaths and 700 injuries a year; landlords who don’t comply with the new law face a £5,000 fine. This rule applies to England; housing is a devolved issue in Wales and Scotland.
Carrier Bag Charges
From 5th October 2015, large retailers are required to charge a minimum price of 5p for most single-use plastic carrier bags. Small or medium-sized business don’t have to charge, but are free to do so voluntarily.
Businesses that employ more than 250 full-time equivalent employees (in total and not just in retail roles) must charge for carrier bags. Businesses with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees don’t have to charge. If a store is part of a franchise or symbol group (sharing a brand and products) then only employees in that store count, not the franchise or symbol group as a whole.
For more information on retailers responsibilities please go to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/carrier-bag-charges-retailers-responsibilities
Changes to UK Consumer Law – 30 Day Refund Right
The Consumer Rights Act came into effect on 1st October 2015, consumers now have 30 days after delivery to return faulty goods for a full refund. Previously, consumers were only entitled to refunds for a “reasonable time”.
The Act also provides protection where as a consumer the contract is for services and means that the consumer can demand repeat performance where services are not performed with reasonable care and skill.
There is also new protection for people who buy digital content, such as e-books or online films and music. They will be entitled to a replacement – if the downloads do not work, but not a refund.
It replaces a number of existing laws for consumers including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. The new law only applies to things bought from 1st October – previous rules will apply to everything bought before then, even if the problem occurs after 1st October.