Failure to prepare for ageism laws may cost firms billions

UK employers could be exposing themselves to £73bn worth of employment
tribunal claims if they fail to prepare for new legislation outlawing age
discrimination from 2006.

The figure, which has been calculated by the Employers Forum on Age (EFA)
and legal firm Lewis Silkin, is based on the cost to employers if the 14 per
cent of UK workers who feel they have suffered age discrimination pursue a
claim under the new laws.

The two organisations estimate that in the first year of the new legislation
alone, employers could face legal claims in the region of £193m.

In response to the potential dangers facing employers, the EFA has produced
a toolkit, One Step Ahead, which allows organisations to check that their
employment decisions are based on ability, not age.

The toolkit was developed with some of the UK’s leading employers and
contains 20 checklists covering recruitment, training, promotion, harassment,
retirement and redundancy.

Amanda Jones, group diversity manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group
which helped to pilot the toolkit, said it has helped the company identify the
areas it needs to work on.

"This positions us well to maximise the business benefits that we so
clearly see from having an age-diverse workforce and from recognising diversity
in our customer base," she said.

Stephen Golden, BAA’s diversity manager, said the toolkit encouraged the
company to communicate the benefits of age diversity to managers.

Howard Davies, chair of the EFA, hopes the kit will encourage change, and
help businesses go beyond compliance, and move towards best practice.

BAA, Manpower, Centrica, the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Land
Registry, GlaxoSmithKline, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are all using the
toolkit.

By Quentin Reade

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