Age bias enters via back door on gender coat tails

As usual, HR professionals are being swamped with new employment

More immediate considerations, such as data protection and information and
consultation, mean that age discrimination is being ignored. This is
understandable when you consider that the Government will not be introducing
legislation until 2006.

Well, I’ve got some bad news – that date could be moving forward to next
month for many employers.

A landmark employment tribunal is set to give workers over 65 the right to
claim for unfair dismissal and redundancy, unless the DTI successfully appeals.

While the issue involves sex rather than age discrimination laws, the result
will be the same for many employers who have not revisited their retirement
policies – a wave of employment tribunals. Employers have to thoroughly review
policies with age in mind. Research shows that 60 per cent of HR professionals
believe ageism is the most common form of discrimination in the workplace.

Organisations are going to have to be able to rigorously and objectively
justify why staff have to retire, and ensure that it doesn’t discriminate
against one sex or the other.

An increasing number of employers are implementing a more flexible approach
to retirement. These organisations have to get their performance management in
shape because enforced retirement will depend on people’s inability to
adequately do their jobs.

But how ‘bad’ is this news? Anti-age discrimination legislation is in the
pipeline anyway, and pension crises suggest we shall all be working as

Furthermore, employers that have got rid of a fixed retirement date are
singing the praises of reduced staff turnover, improved skills retention and
productivity. The defence that a flexible approach to retirement will damage
succession planning is sounding hollow.

With the likelihood of a new timeframe in the offing, HR should simply get
on with age-proofing their policies.

By Mike Broad

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