professionals will be at the cutting edge when enforcing proposed laws on
ageism at work. They need to act now to give their views to a DTI consultation
and to review all current employment policy
professionals will need to review every employment policy and process in the
lead up to age discrimination laws outlined in proposals announced last week.
Government’s consultation on plans for outlawing ageism in employment and
vocational training, Equality and Diversity: Age Matters, will transform the
way organisations treat older staff, according to the Employers Forum on Age
of the EFA Sam Mercer said the DTI proposals, which are set to form the basis
of legislation coming into force in 2006, would radically change current
law will soon rank ageism alongside other forms of discrimination in
employment, such as sexism or racism, and will present an immense challenge to
the way we think about age in the UK," she said. "This will impact on
every single HR policy. The more you dig down, the more complex you realise it
said employers need to conduct a comprehensive review of all their policies and
practices well in advance of 2006.
consultation seeks views on a wide range of issues, including: retirement age;
recruitment, selection and promotion; pay and non-pay benefits; unfair
dismissal; employment-related insurance; and statutory redundancy payments.
Smith, people director at Asda, believes it is in employers’ interests to
embrace the new laws because it will help them recruit and retain older
figures predict that 40 per cent of the British workforce will be aged over 45
by 2010, with just 17 per cent aged under 24. "It is not just older
members of society that are losing out, by ignoring the experience over 50s
have to offer, but businesses are too," he said.
and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, who launched the consultation, said age
discrimination was the last bastion of lawful unfair discrimination.
particular, we must challenge the ageist assumption that younger employees make
the best workers," she said.
is a sad fact that thousands of people in their 40s and 50s who have been made
redundant never work again," she said. "It is vital we widen the pool
of workers so employers can make the most of the full range of talent and
said that research suggests that age discrimination costs the UK £16bn a year.
consultation, which ends on 20 October, will be used to develop draft
legislation, which will be followed by a further round of consultation in the
first half of 2004. The resulting
legislation will come into force on 1 October 2006, but the DTI hopes to lay it
before Parliament by the end of 2004.
UK must implement the new laws in order to meet the EU Employment Directive
which prohibits age discrimination in employment and vocational training.
HR needs to know
and Diversity: Age Matters seeks views on a range of specific policy aims
The abolition of employers’ mandatory retirement ages unless employers can
objectively justify them
The possibility of a default retirement age of 70, at which employers could
Proposed legitimate aims which employers, exceptionally, could use to help
justify the retention of a small number of age-related practices, and
Changes to the legislation regarding unfair dismissal and redundancy Scenarios
which will be illegal in future
which will be illegal in future
examples of age discrimination in employment that will be outlawed by
legislation in 2006 include:
An employer telling staff they are too old to go on training programmes because
they don’t learn as well as younger people and that from now on, people in
their 20s and 30s will be prioritised for training
An employer setting a mandatory retirement age at 60, because it wants to
attract new blood into the organisation and keep the profile of its workers
young, believing that older workers are less creative and ‘stuck in their ways’
An employer stating it wants to recruit a ‘mature and reliable candidate’ and
will only accept applications from people aged over 30 years
A bar or a fashion store advertising for young and energetic salespeople, because
they want to recruit someone who fits in with the age profile of their
customers, and believes young people are more likely to buy their goods if
served by someone young
from the professionals
HR welcomes pending legislation while unions fret over impact
Worman, adviser on diversity, CIPD
"The Government needs to put in place a flexible framework which
facilitates access to the talent and experience of all workers, regardless of
age. However, the imposition of a default age and an age limit on retirement
flies in the face of the demographic trend which shows that average age ofthe
workforce is rising.
Government needs to put down a marker to encourage organisations to think
creatively about the employment and retention of older workers by, for example,
flexible or phased retirement, part-time working or job sharing."
Mason, employment policy consultant, BT and member of the Employers’ Forum on
Age steering committee
"HR policies and practices that have developed over time may currently be
seen as good practice but may, in fact, discriminate against older workers.
Employers need to review their policies and follow best practices guides."
Keating, head of people proposition, Marks & Spencer and member of the
Employers Forum on Age steering committee
"Some employers will only be acknowledging this [issue] for the first
time. Employers need to review all of their policies. Investment needs to be
made now. They should highlight the quick wins and the burning issues and start
Jones, group diversity manager, Royal Bank of Scotland
"We are totally supportive of the Government’s desire to create
flexibility given that our traditional recruitment market is changing. It is
reflective of the group’s desire to maximise the business benefits that we so
clearly see from having an age-diverse workforce and from recognising diversity
in our customer base.
are preparing for it by reviewing our current policies and plan to bring in a
range of flexible retirement options by the end of this year."
Smith, people director, Asda
"This is a real step forward for the millions of over-50s who have a real
contribution to make in the workplace. We employ more than 20,000 people aged
50 and over and are looking for more. By ignoring the experience over-50s have
to offer, it’s not just the older members of society that are losing out, but
anything, we have found that over-50s bring a unique set of life skills which
are encompassed in maturity – making them able to serve our customers well in a
Prentis, general secretary, Unison
"The pressure for change should come from employees who want to continue
working because of increased job satisfaction, not because the rules of the
pension scheme force them to stay until they burn out and become unemployable."
Barber, general secretary, TUC
"Research shows that ageism is the top cause of discrimination in the
workplace. The proposals should help start to change attitudes and encourage
employers to work towards making ageism a thing of the past.
workers must have the same rights at work as their colleagues – that means the
same rights to access training, plus protection from unfair dismissal and
redundancy. Unions are keen to banish ageism from workplaces."