Employers failing to secure age discrimination policies

It
will take employers many months to draw up policies that will put an end to age
discrimination at work – and protect them from possible prosecution – according
to new research.

The
research, by IRS Employment Review, shows that approximately four in 10
employers have no formal or informal policy on age diversity or age
discrimination.

But
regulations due to be published in draft form by early 2004 will spell out how
the government intends to implement the relevant aspects of the EU Employment
Directive by October 2006, making it unlawful for employers to discriminate on
grounds of age.

The
survey, of 83 HR departments across the private and public sectors, shows:


Approximately one-third of employers operate a formal written policy on age
discrimination and/or age diversity within their organisations


The remainder – 55 respondents – have no formal policy, although many report
that an informal policy exists. Overall, just over a quarter said they have an
informal policy


Only four organisations (just 5 per cent) said they set both minimum and
maximum ages for recruits


Just 6 per cent of respondents set a maximum age limit only


The majority (61 per cent of those answering the question) of employers
surveyed claim they do not formally set either minimum or maximum ages for new
recruits. Just over a quarter (20 organisations) set a minimum age only


One in five organisations report they have no mandatory retirement age.

IRS
Employment Review report author, Janet Egan, said: “Some employers will have to
change stereotypical or hostile attitudes to older workers, just as they had to
change attitudes to race and sex when discrimination laws tackled these areas
more than 25 years ago.

"It
is in the interests of employers to have policies that encourage older workers
to stay with them if they want enough workers to get the job done.

“Almost
every organisation in the IRS study claimed it did not discriminate against
older workers in recruitment, promotion, training or redundancy selection. But,
in practice, it is widely acknowledged that older applicants frequently fall at
the first hurdle – obtaining an interview – if they admit (or give enough
clues, such as dates of attending schools or college) to their age on the
application form.

“As
yet, employers appear to have done very little development work on age
diversity policy and practice. As the deadline approaches and the country’s
workforce ages, employers will have to address this area of discrimination.
From now on, age will matter to employers.”

www.irsonline.co.uk

By Quentin Reade

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