Law Society claims new age discrimination rules are unworkable

The government’s new age discrimination laws won’t work and will create difficulties for employers unless last-minute changes are made, according to the Law Society.

The requirement for employers to consider requests from workers reaching retirement age to continue working and the duty to justify different treatment on grounds of age are still unclear, said the society.

The new Employment Equality (Age) regulations are due to come into force in October 2006. They will bring age discrimination into line with laws on sex and race discrimination in employment and vocational training.

“We are concerned there is such a short lead-in time for this major piece of legislation,” said Kevin Martin, president of the Law Society.

Under the new regulation employers will have a duty to consider requests from individuals to continue working beyond 65. Each request must be considered individually, but the legislation does not provide any criteria against which to assess the request.

“As the regulations stand at present, we fear that clear criteria may be impossible to devise and many employers will be tempted to adopt a policy of refusing all requests to work beyond a compulsory retirement age,” said Martin.

In a final submission to the Department for Trade and Industry, the Law Society’s employment law committee said it would be very difficult for employers to navigate the complicated provisions on justification – the grounds on which employers will be able to treat people differently because of their age.

The committee said there needed to be more guidance and practical examples for employers to follow.

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