Employers have started banning communal birthday cards because of the risk of distributing discriminatory ageist comments.
Businesses are worried that teasing taunts, such as being “over the hill,” could generate claims under the age discrimination laws that came into effect on 1 October.
Julian Boughton, managing director of insurance firm Alan & Thomas, said banning birthday cards was a sensible precaution.
“The new rules outlawing age discrimination are a potential minefield for both employees and employers. Every business should be taking action to prevent discriminatory comments being written in cards because messages can so easily be misinterpreted,” he said.
Susan Anderson, CBI director of human resources policy, said last month that the age regulations would test common practices, such as circulating birthday cards.
“The new rules will impact on employment practices for people of all ages, from recruitment, training, pay, benefits and performance management to redundancy, retirement and pensions,” she said.
“They challenge many previously accepted practices, from job ads asking for ‘youthful’ or even ‘experienced’ candidates, to ageist office banter and birthday cards.”