Public sector must do more to prepare for age discrimination law

Public sector bodies are gearing up for next year’s age discrimination laws, but more needs be done to understand its full implications, according to research.

From 2006, legislation will be introduced that is expected to outlaw age discrimination in employment. The most obvious impact of the new legislation will be on retirement ages, where organisations will have to offer flexible retirement policies, but the legislation will have a much wider impact.

A survey of 74 organisations by the Society of Personnel Officers in the Public Sector (Socpo) and the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) reveals that the majority of respondents are already preparing the ground.

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents have removed age and date of birth from application forms and 75% of the organisations polled monitor their workforce by age.

But when asked about specific measures, gaps appeared in the state of readiness of many organisations. Only 17% of those polled had implemented a flexible retirement policy and 63% had yet to identify human or financial resources to address age-related issues.

Gillian Hibberd, Socpo spokeswoman on age legislation, said: “It is encouraging to note how many public sector organisations are already looking ahead to the new age legislation, but more needs to be done to understand all of its implications beyond retirement issues.

“The incoming law can be a force for good in relation to talent management, skills shortages and cutting recruitment costs, but some will see it as a costly and time-consuming imposition by government. We must prepare now and make the legislation work for us, not against us.”

Freda Line of the EFA, added: “Stereotypes about age must be challenged if we are to benefit from a truly balanced and flexible workforce. This survey shows that the message is only partly getting through to the public sector and suggests a degree of complacency.

“It is worrying that two-thirds of respondents admitted that they had yet to ring-fence resources to tackle age issues. Given that 19% of discrimination cases in Ireland are age-related, we think this is short-sighted.”

Comments are closed.