A flood of age discrimination claims could leave UK employers facing a £12m compensation bill, government figures have revealed.
Statistics from the now-defunct Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) showed about 600 claims had been registered since the introduction of age discrimination legislation last October. To put this in context, the average disability discrimination claim is £20,000.
These figures emerged after a survey by Berwin Leighton Paisner found that one in 10 respondents had already received age discrimination claims. The City law firm questioned 50 firms employing 78,000 workers.
More than half of respondents complained that the UK workplace was over-regulated, but experts issued a stern warning to employers over their responsibilities.
With the DTI anticipating 5,250 age claims in 2007-08, Berwin Leighton Paisner partner Rebecca Harding-Hill said: “There is no room for apathy towards these new laws, and employers must stay ahead of the game.
“If employers are not on top of the age legislation and all of its ramifications, age claims could result in a significant financial cost for UK businesses,” she added.
Sally Humpage, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development told Personnel Today: “It is not always easy to get your head around age discrimination laws, as the devil is in the detail.”
The CBI has claimed that the introduction of 35 new employment rights over the past nine years has cost UK businesses £37bn.
“Employers will have to review their employment practices, but I expect a period of transition where employers will need to go through what they can and can’t do,” said CBI head of employment and employee relations Katja Hall.
Two-thirds of the 1,000 workers surveyed by the Employers Forum on Age on the six month anniversary of the introduction of the regulations said recruitment procedures had not changed.
The most high-profile age discrimination case to date saw Ann Southcott, a 67-year-old clerical worker at Treliske Hospital in Truro, Cornwall, who was dismissed the day before the regulations came into force, reinstated by the Royal Cornwall NHS Trust in an out-of-court settlement.