New rules banning discrimination by employers, covering areas such as age, disability and pay, came into force this month.
The new Equality Act, which comes into effect on 1 October, covers many workplace areas drawing nine separate pieces of legislation into a single Act.
Equalities Minister Theresa May says it will now be easier for firms to comply with anti-discrimination rules, apply in England, Wales and Scotland.
But business groups argued the new legislation will impose a heavy burden on employers costing millions of pounds to implement.
The law restricts the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health prior to offering them a position, making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out.
“In these challenging economic times it’s more important than ever for employers to make the most of all the talent available,” said Ms May.
There are also new powers for employment tribunals.
The Act will also stop employers using pay secrecy clauses to prevent employees discussing their own pay, which means men and women can compare pay.
The Act will not make employers reveal how much they pay men compared with women, as had been planned by the former Labour government.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Everyone is protected by the new law.
“It [the Act] covers age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex (meaning gender) and sexual orientation.
“Under the act people are not allowed to discriminate, harass or victimise another person because they belong to a group that the Act protects, they are thought to belong to one of those groups or are associated with someone who does.”
But some business groups argued that the new rules place an extra burden on companies at a time when they are still trying to recover from the recession.
“Businesses are really concerned,” Abigail Morris from the British Chambers of Commerce told the BBC.
“The government’s own impact assessment shows that this is going to cost £190m just for businesses to understand the legislation, and this at a time when we really need them to be concentrating on creating private sector jobs and driving economic recovery.”
During the summer there were some concerns about the new rules expressed by shipping companies.
Some claimed the laws could force them to quit the UK because they would have to pay UK rates to foreign-based seafarers who do not have the burden of British living costs. Source BBC
The rules apply whether you are a resident worker or on a work permit or student visa.
Some businesses employ foreign workers on less favourable rates of pay or terms and conditions to their resident or EU employees.
Migrant workers are often too scared to ‘rock the boat’ in case they lose their job.
Even some large care providers have been exposed for paying work permit holding Senior Carer Workers on less money than resident staff.
The Equality Act will make it more difficult to discriminate against any worker regardless of their race, sex, disabilities or visa status.
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