Employers have been warned to instigate major culture change schemes and embrace age diversity, or risk facing huge problems when new legislation outlawing ageism is introduced next year.
Employment lawyers are predicting that organisations will face an up-hill struggle in overturning age-old attitudes towards age discrimination, and unless action is taken now, businesses will come unstuck when the law is changed.
Speakers at the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) annual conference in Newcastle said employers must start developing policies now to tackle some of the inherent problems with age discrimination, or face major problems in the future.
Legal expert Michael Rubenstein, who chaired the keynote debate at the conference, said time was running out for employers.
“Age is the final frontier in discrimination law. Employers have learned to their cost how long it takes to change sexist and racist workplace cultures. Sensible employers will be tackling age stereotypes now, and will not risk putting this off until the law actually takes effect,” he said.
The rules on age discrimination are widely expected to mirror existing laws, so employers should adapt existing harassment policies to prevent ageist bullying, as well as move to stamp out any offensive remarks or jokes about age.
Unlike unfair dismissal, awards for age discrimination will not be capped, so companies guilty of an offence could face massive compensation claims.