It gives me great pleasure to pick up the work on age discrimination from Alan Johnson. Like Alan, this is important to me, because I believe that everyone, no matter what their sex, ethnicity, religion and, perhaps most significantly age, should be treated fairly in the workplace. We need to make sure the transition into following the new regulations runs smoothly for all employers.
Procedures are in place to protect employers from unnecessary or unfair dismissal claims during the first six months of the new laws. For a retirement dismissal to be fair during this transitional period, employers must adhere to the following steps:
- If an employer gives a member of staff notice before 1 October this year that they are to be retired on or after 1 October 2006, but before 1 April 2007, notice must be at least the period required by the contract of employment, or, where the contractual period is longer than four weeks, at least four weeks.
- On, or as soon as possible after 1 October, employers will have to write to employees explaining their right to request to work for longer.
- The employee can make a request not to be retired after their contract has been terminated, but not more than four weeks afterwards.
- A meeting to discuss the request, and any subsequent appeal meeting, must be held within a reasonable period, and the employee can ask to be accompanied.
- HR professionals should note that under current employment law, they already have an obligation to give notice of dismissal, whether on retirement or for some other reason.
- If the employee is given notice on or after 1 October 2006 that they are to be retired before 1 April 2007:
the employer must write to them, notifying the employee of the intended retirement date – giving the longer of either contractual or statutory notice
- must tell the employee in writing that they have a right to request not to be retired.
- An employee who wants to exercise this right should make a written request: where possible, four weeks before the intended retirement date; or as soon as is reasonably possible after being notified of the ‘right to request’.
The request can be made after the employee’s contract has been terminated, but not more than four weeks after this date. The same appeal procedures apply as before.
Anyone retiring on or after 1 April 2007 will be subject to the full retirement procedure as stated in the age regulations.
In my next column, I will address ageism regulations and vocational training.
Geeta Singh is a 59-year-old occupational therapist, who is due to retire on 3 October this year.To avoid falling foul of the new laws, her employer must follow the transitional arrangement procedures. Singh receives her retirement notice before 1 October. The notice period required by her contract is five weeks. Under the transitional arrangements, for the dismissal to be a fair retirement dismissal, her employer can legally give her up to five weeks, but no less than four weeks’ notice. On 1 October, or as soon as possible thereafter, Singh’s employer will have to write to her informing her of the right to request working beyond her retirement. Duty to consider rules must then be followed if necessary.
For guidance on eliminating age discriminatory practices, go to www.acas.org.uk
To see the age regulations, go to www.dti.gov.uk/er/equality/age.htm
By Jim Fitzpatrick, newly appointed employment relations minister