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News - 8 October 2006

Business is not ready for new age legislation

New research from law firm Browne Jacobson reveals that one third of employers may still discriminate on the basis of age. However, most company directors complacently believe that they don’t need to do anything or worry about legal action.

As new age discrimination legislation takes a grip on the nation 65% of business leaders believe their company is not ready for the new measures. The research, contained in Browne Jacobson’s new Sleepless Report, is based on a survey of more than 220 company directors across the UK.

One third of employers admitted that age might deter them from hiring an otherwise suitable candidate, a figure that rises to 49% in the East Midlands and 48% in the North.

Company directors also confessed a preference for hiring younger or older candidates ‘depending on the position’. A fifth (21%) said that age considerations might put them off a younger applicant, while 14% were deterred from hiring older candidates.

Directors were three times more likely to believe that older people are more hardworking and ambitious than younger people. The report reveals that only a third (35%) of company directors believe their company is ready for the new legislation.

However, the majority of company directors are unconcerned, with more than four fifths (82%) believing they are not at risk of legal action, a figure that rises to 91% in the West Midlands.

Yet only around a third of companies plan to draft an anti age discrimination policy (33%) and revise job advertisements to exclude age, just 10% plan to review pay, benefits and length of service schemes.

Only one fifth (21%) of directors plan to amend company retirement policy and open up all positions to people of all ages and levels of experience. One fifth of companies (21%) plan to take no action to comply with the new legislation, with over a quarter (28%) of companies in the East Midlands planning to ignore the changes.

Peter Jones, employment partner at Browne Jacobson, said, “Business can’t afford to be complacent about this new age discrimination legislation. While many have taken steps to amend contracts and job advertisements, what really needs to change is the apparent view that equates age with ability. Employers risk substantial tribunal claims if they don’t take this new legislation seriously.

“While companies tend to concentrate on the issue of discrimination against older workers, our research suggests that the young are actually more likely to face discrimination in the workplace.

“Employers should be aware that discrimination can work both ways and amend policies and procedures accordingly.”

Peter Jones offers the following advice to employers:

  • Review company retirement age.
  • Carefully review the language used in recruitment adverts, person or job. specifications to avoid indirect or direct discrimination, for instance avoiding words such as ‘young’ or ‘mature’.
  • Introduce processes to implement the requirements for retirement notification and the right to request continued employment.
  • Move age/date of birth questions from the application form to a diversity monitoring form, which will stay with HR.
  • Review policies for recruitment, selection, training, promotion and retirement to ensure compliance with the new regulations.
  • Review pay and benefits to ensure compliance with the new regulations – in particular service-related pay and benefits. · Ensure that equal opportunities training includes ageism awareness.

Read related items on:
Browne Jacobson

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