Gerry Sutcliffe, minister for employment relations and Sam Mercer, director, Employers Forum on Age respond to our questions on age discrimination legislation.
Will the new age discrimination laws have a greater impact on business than any other form of anti-discrimination legislation?
Research from the University of Kent suggests that age discrimination is the most frequently cited form of discrimination by employees. It is obviously too early to speculate on exactly what will happen after 1 October, but as we are all affected by age, the regulations will potentially have a wider scope for impact. Certainly though, businesses should see an increase in productivity through retention of older, more experienced staff members, and more efficient use of resources.
In a recent survey of EFA members, 40% believed age would be more significant than sex discrimination and 49% believed it would be more significant than race discrimination. Age laws will protect everyone and will require a wholesale review of all employment policies from recruitment to retirement.
The legislation has been dubbed the biggest piece of social engineering for 20 years. Is that fair?
The regulations will provide important new rights and responsibilities for every employee and business in the UK. Age discrimination is possibly the most important piece of legislation because age affects us all. It is the last strand of the EU Employment Directive and complements laws already in place to protect workers from discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief.
It is fair comment that age laws will require a significant rethink on career paths and the way we work. We are challenging assumptions that people should retire at a specific age, that they should work in more senior positions as they get older, that a manager will always be older than the person working for them, that a 30-year old may be less physically fit to work than a 50-year old, and that age in general doesn't 'matter' when it comes to making decisions about employment. That's no easy task in six months.
Will the legislation lead to a surge of age discrimination claims as it has done in the US and Ireland?
If employers begin to address th