Acas warns employers not to ignore young workers’ rights

Acas has warned employers not to ignore the rights of younger workers as the Age Discrimination Regulations come into force.

The regulations ban age discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion, training, provision of benefits as well as all retirement ages below 65 – except where objectively justified. The current upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights is also removed.

Employers now have a duty to consider an employee’s request to continue working beyond retirement age and  to give written notification to employees at least six months in advance of their intended retirement date, to allow employees to plan for their retirement.

Acas chair, Rita Donaghy, said there is a risk that employers wil focus solely on how it affects their older employees.

“It’s easy to forget that age discrimination can affect all employees, from the youngest to the oldest,” she said.

“Rightly, there has been a lot of publicity about older workers – but we shouldn’t forget that the new legislation will require employers to change their behaviour towards the younger generation as well. It is equally unacceptable to describe someone as being ‘wet behind the ears’ as it is to call them ‘over the hill’.”

Donaghy warned that the Department of Trade and Industry DTI anticipates that there may be 8,000 age discrimination cases brought to UK tribunals in the first year .

DTI figures shows that UK employers waste up to £700m a year by making age-based assumptions about their staff and failing to capitalise on their potential, abilities and experience as a result.

Acas offers the following steps that companies can take to overcome age bias in the workplace:

  • Recruitment advertisements – avoid specifying length of experience as this disadvantages certain age groups.
  • Application forms – ask for date of birth on equality monitoring forms only and use skills based forms.
  •  Selection procedures – train managers to avoid stereotypes.
  • Training – make sure it is open to all employees.
  • Performance appraisal – set the same standards regardless of age.
  • Redundancy policy – review your policies: using length of service to select employees for redundancy is likely to be discriminatory.
  • Equality policy – add age to your current policy.

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