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Annie Hayes

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Age regulations: 86 per cent of employers not ready

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With less than three weeks to go until the new age discrimination regulations come into force, a new survey has revealed that 86 per cent of employers have not changed their HR procedures and practices in readiness for their new obligations.

One of the reasons could be that the regulations are simply too complicated: 76 per cent of the 1,056 employers questioned say they should be simplified.

The survey, by employment law firm Peninsula, also reveals that 78 per cent of employers believe that employing older workers will not benefit them. Fears of health problems in workers over the age of 65 was cited by 54 per cent of respondents.

But despite the lack of preparation or reluctance to employ older workers, 71 per cent of employers think their employees will request to work beyond 65 because of the inadequacy of their pensions.

Peninsula’s senior employment law specialist Mike Huss described the age discrimination regulations as the biggest single change to employment law in 30 years and added: “If employers have not started getting their act together then they need to do so immediately.

“It’s quite shocking to see many businesses are not yet prepared for the new measures. The new laws will open the door to a rise in employment tribunal claims.

“Race discrimination, sex or religious discrimination applies generally to small numbers of people. Age discrimination applies to every single employer and every single employee. Procedure is everything, and awards for discrimination are unlimited. Employers must therefore get it right.”

The regulations do not contain any requirements to collect information or monitor the age profile of the workforce. But Mr Huss says there are many areas where they might have an impact.

“Employers need to look at their entire employment policies because it affects recruitment: terms such as office junior or mature worker cannot be used.

“It may affect service related benefits such as extra holidays after so many years service; it may affect selection for training or promotion, and will certainly affect succession planning where assumptions have been made about age and length of service.

“There will also be implications for selection for redundancy criteria such as ‘last in, first out’, redundancy payments and the adoption, or not, of the default retirement age of 65.

“While retiring people before the age of 65 is not absolutely forbidden, it will require objective justification if such dismissals are to be deemed to be fair by an employment tribunal. Not forgetting that the new laws will also remove the age limits for statutory sick play, statutory adoption pay and statutory maternity pay.”

If you’re not ready, here’s a checklist of actions:

  • Check recruitment procedures to ensure they do not impose any unjustifiable requirements relating to age.
  • Ensure that all employees are made aware of age discrimination, especially those conducting interviews and making recruitment decisions.
  • Check the provisions contained in their written statements of main terms, employee handbooks and supplementary documentation, thus scrutinising any elements that are age related.
  • Review training policies to make sure that training is open to all: do not assume that older people are not interested in career development.
  • Review attitudes to performance appraisal and capability issues: expectations and dealing with unsatisfactory performance should be the same regardless of age.
  • Review redundancy policies to ensure there is no direct or indirect age discrimination.
  • Check provisions relating to normal retirement age and retirement procedures.


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Annie Hayes

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