HR feels unsupported in age legislation roll-out


HR departments are not getting the full support of their senior management in the implementation of new age discrimination laws, a new report shows.


The new legislation, designed to outlaw discrimination on the basis of age, is due to come into effect in October 2006.

According to research by Eversheds law firm and Cranfield School of Management, HR departments are being left to lead the implementation process in the majority of organisations (65%) and just over half of respondents (55%) believe their board members are not committed to eliminating ageism in the workplace.


Rather than leading by example, the research shows that stereotypical attitudes towards older and younger workers are alive among senior managers and, in some cases, HR professionals themselves.


Nearly a third of the 1,000 respondents, made up of senior managers and HR professionals, perceive older workers as unreliable, unskilled and less adaptable to change.


On the other hand, younger employees were viewed as the main culprits for taking sick leave and less loyal to an organisation than their older colleagues. This suggests that existing HR policies and practices continue to be applied in a discriminatory way, such as interview selection and training opportunities.


The report also highlighted a lack of awareness regarding the full implications of the new legislation, with 40% of respondents unaware of the effect of the regulations on occupational pensions.


Audrey Williams, employment law partner at Eversheds law firm, said: “From these findings it would appear that businesses have a mountain to climb during the next 12 months if they are going to change negative attitudes towards age, which appear to be ingrained in UK workplaces.”


Dr Emma Parry, research fellow at Cranfield School of Management, said: “Bringing in the right policies and practices is only the first step in eliminating age discrimination in the workplace.


“This research shows that stereotypical attitudes towards both older and younger workers are prevalent even among senior HR managers. Organisations need to work towards eliminating these attitudes and their effects if they are ever going to be truly rid of age discrimination – this is the real challenge for HR professionals.”


 

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