‘Oldrush’ draws near as EU rules age bias illegal

Age discrimination in the UK may already be illegal, despite the fact that legislation outlawing it will not officially come into force until October.

The government published the final age regulations earlier this month, but a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in the German case of Mangold v Helm suggests that age discrimination is already illegal across the EU.

The case concerned legislation to protect workers on fixed-term contracts. According to German law, since 2001, workers over the age of 51 employed on these contracts have had reduced protection.

The ECJ decided this was illegal and said that age discrimination was already contrary to EU law because it “offends the principle” of international law.

Owen Warnock, employment law partner at Eversheds law firm, said this meant the ruling would apply in UK tribunals concerned with age discrimination.

“The government has done a great deal to create a practical framework for the [age] regulations,” he said. “But, in theory, this ruling means that UK employees can already bring claims for age discrimination.

The ruling also sends a message to EU employers that were hoping to rely on the provision for “justified” age discrimination, he said.

Employers will now need to produce detailed arguments to demonstrate that less discriminatory measures would not have achieved the desired result.

A large number of UK employers could now face claims, according to the results of last week’s Personnel Today online barometer. Six out of 10 HR professionals admitted they were not confident that their own organisation’s employment practices were not ageist.

For more on the regulations, go to www.personneltoday.com/34373.article

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