Irish experience of age sounds warning for UK

Ireland’s experience with age discrimination claims is a likely indicator of what will happen in the UK once anti-ageist legislation is introduced here in 2006, says the director of the Employers Forum of Age (EFA).

Writing in the November issue of Personnel Today’s sister publication Employers’ Law, Sam Mercer says that 19 per cent of Ireland’s formal discrimination claims involve allegations of ageism.

“There is a lot we can learn from Ireland,” Mercer said. “First… employers will have to use significant resources to successfully defend a claim; second, recruitment and promotion will be popular areas for claims – specifically internal recruitment where individuals have knowledge of a company’s culture and are likely to be more confident.

“And finally,” Mercer adds, “employment procedures need to be transparent as well as fair and should be backed up by records.”

One high-profile Irish case involved budget airline Ryanair, which had advertised for a ‘young, dynamic professional’. The airline claimed in its defence that the term ‘young’ meant ‘young at heart’, but evidence submitted showed that none of the 28 candidates who applied for the job were over 40. It was also found that the company’s interview and selection procedures were not consistent with its equal opportunities policy.

Harassment claims on the basis of age discrimination have involved people at both ends of the age spectrum. In one case, a young woman manager won her claim for harassment after she had been referred to as a ‘young foolish girl’ by an older, male, member of staff.

The EFA is recommending that employers undertake a comprehensive employment policy review to prepare for the upcoming age legislation, for which draft regulations are to be published next year.

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