Mandatory age audits in Equality Bill would not tackle ageism, say HR and experts

The introduction of mandatory age audits as part of the Equality Bill would make little difference in tackling age discrimination, HR professionals and experts have warned.

Earlier this week, The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) called for a new clause to be added to the Equality Bill forcing employers to report the age breakdown of their staff, in a bid to encourage age equality issues to be taken more seriously.

But HR practitioners told Personnel Today the move would not add value as the information would not reveal how older workers were treated at a company, and employers could feel forced to “spin” the data to avoid appearing potentially ageist.

Jonathan Cawthra, group HR director at Affinity Sutton housing association, said: “Given that complying with all facets of discrimination legislation is itself mandatory, then I see little benefit in adding audits such as these to the list.

“They’d tell you precious little about an organisation’s attitude to age, so it’s hard to know exactly what purpose they’d serve. Stoking up the legal basis for avoiding discrimination is a poor substitute for promulgating the business case more powerfully.”

Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, added: “I think at this stage mandatory reporting would be one step too far. You can’t expect all organisations to show the same level of sophistication in terms of their activity.

“The shining stars may be more than happy to do it, but those still learning will automatically be exposed and so will be encouraged to put more spin on it and twist the data. If you want to encourage confidence and honesty in the reporting, it needs to be voluntary.”

David Coates, associate director of policy at The Work Foundation, said while reporting age gaps “was not an unreasonable idea”, it was not necessary because the ageing workforce would force employers to address age inequality anyway.

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