UK employers are going to be hit by a landslide of claims when age discrimination legislation comes in next year, experts predict.
Age discrimination legislation, which is due to come into force in October 2006, will make it illegal to unfairly discriminate on the grounds of age.
Sam Mercer, director of the Employers Forum on Age, told delegates at the Association of Graduate Recruiters conference in London that lessons from abroad showed employees were very willing to take employers to court over age discrimination.
In the US, where age discrimination legislation has been in place since 1967, the number of cases has risen by 40% in the past two years alone.
"UK employers are right to be worried," said Mercer. "We are much more like the US as far as litigation goes than our European neighbours."
Anthony Fincham, employment partner at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, said the main battleground over the ageism legislation would centre around Article 6 of the EU directive that created the law.
Article 6 permits different treatment on grounds of age if the reasons are "objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim" of employers.
The HR Directors Club is holding a workshop session, The ageing workforce - the unspoken issues, on 25 May at the Groucho Club in London. Members should e-mail [email protected] to book their place