The number of age discrimination cases has soared by 80 per cent in just two years as employers still struggle with changes in legislation.
The Tribunals Service has seen the number of cases soar to 5,200 during 2009-10, up from the 2,900 cases recorded for 2007-08 – the first full year since the Age Discrimination Act 2006 was implemented in October of that year.
While the act was passed in 2006, like all changes in employment law it has taken time to impact on the tribunal system. Since then the law relating to age discrimination was repealed and is now governed by the Equality Act 2010.
HR specialist Deminos,(www.deminos.co.uk) believes the figure could rise again as older workers become more aware of their rights under the 2010 leglislation.
Deminos managing director Neil Atkinson said: “All new laws take time to bed in and after a slow start the numbers of cases has soared, as people get to grips with what the legislation means. Unfortunately many businesses of all sizes are still ignorant to the ramifications in the law change.
“The same thing happened in the Netherlands after legislation was introduced in 2004. After a slow start litigation hit the roof and that is happening now here in the UK. Many of these cases cover people who feel they have been passed over for promotion on the grounds of age or who have not even be invited to apply for new posts which they feel qualified to go for.”
The law originally came into force in October 2006 to clampdown on ageism in the workplace so that employers cannot recruit, train, promote or retire people on the basis of age, unless it can be objectively justified, which is ultimately up to the court to define. Age is now a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010.
Deminos managing director Neil Atkinson said: “It is no longer acceptable to advertise for young graduates or to target older workers first when looking to make redundancies.
“While it may be legitimate for a construction firm to put a maximum age for physical work on health and safety grounds, it would certainly not be legitimate for a high street fashion store who actively seeks to employ younger staff to tie in with their youthful brand image.”
Deminos offer a free employment law guide which is available to download at http://www.deminos.co.uk/free-employment-law-guide or call them on 0191 460 1111 on 020 7870 1090.