Letters

Generations work well side by side

• Your Analysis on ageism was greeted with interest by this reader (“Ageism: the same old story”, 25 July). The company I work for is small (18-strong), but last year could boast that its employees covered every decade from teens to 70s – this year our teenager turned 20, but we are looking for another trainee at present.

We value the expertise to be gained by the older employees and consultants in our organisation. In such a small and busy organisation we all have to work together as a team.

We have two people in their 70s who have a great deal of experience and professionalism to pass on to our younger members of staff. We also have two employees in their 60s and three in their 50s. Out of these, two are relatively new employees.

We have found that clients and suppliers alike have a great deal of respect for our “elder statesmen” and value experience every bit as much as an honours degree.

I would imagine it is quite unusual to have such a wide age span in such a small company. However, this has nothing whatsoever to do with any government code of practice, which I have not even seen.

If an applicant for the job fits in and has the qualifications and experience required, then there is surely no need for age to enter the equation.

Personally, although not evident at this company, I am aware of some bias towards applicants who may have a young family and there still seems to be a myth existing in some quarters that anyone over 40 cannot fit into a “young” office environment. Those who are guilty of this type of discrimination should test the water a little.

From my experience I think they might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Annette Smith

PA to the MD

Peerless Europe

Halstead

Essex

Time-saving can miss experience

• I work for a very good company and ageism is not an issue here. Alas, this is not always the case, and my husband has suffered unemployment many times because of it.

Today, it is very difficult to select a suitable candidate from hundreds of applicants. It can be very time-consuming, and one of the easiest ways for some companies is to preclude all applicants above a certain age, even if this was not stated in the job criteria.

Younger people with excellent qualifications, even degree level students, applying for every job make it easier to select these and discount an older applicant who might have fewer paper qualifications but 30 years experience of doing the job.

Since reaching the age of 50 (now 53) and having been out of work for over a year, yet again, my husband has had to seek employment abroad, in Saudi Arabia.

He says there is a different working culture abroad. Most senior managers are in their 50s or older and the degree-level students of 30 and younger are employed in a lower capacity to train for senior positions over a period of some years.

While in England, he applied for 20 to 30 jobs per week for over a year on the three occasions he was without a job and rarely received even an acknowledgement.

Hopefully, the situation will change and companies will appreciate the advantages of age and experience and someone who wants to settle into a job, rather than have the younger graduate highfliers who will move on after a couple of years – to gain experience.

Phyllis Kelly

Perstorp Surface Materials (UK)

Back-up for when persuasion fails

• I believe there should be legislation to help prevent ageism. We know from other equality legislation that it will not solve all the problems, but it helps to have the back-up of employment law when all the persuasive arguments fail.

Janvier Hyde

Human resources manager

Nuneaton and Bedworth

Borough Council

Older staff can be more reliable

• Both myself and my personnel officer Sue Norton think that ageism should be legislated against. In common with many educational establishments, we honestly recruit people of all ages for all types of post, and usually find that the older staff tend to be more reliable.

Len Morphew

Head of administration

Royal Agricultural College

Cirencester

Acas can’t block ‘timewasters’

• A correspondent to your letters page (25 July) asserted that one of Acas’s functions is to prevent frivolous cases reaching tribunal. This is not so.

Acas is very successful and saves taxpayers a great deal of money by helping to reduce considerably the number of cases that proceed to tribunal hearings. Last financial year nearly 60,000 actual and potential complaints to employment tribunals were settled beforehand and another 40,000 were withdrawn.

Acas, however, does not have – nor would we wish it to have – a formal role in preventing so-called “frivolous” cases from proceeding to tribunal. Such a role would require Acas conciliators to act on behalf of the Employment Tribunal Service to determine the merits of cases and would be incompatible with the independent, impartial conciliation they offer to help both applicants and respondents make informed decisions on how best to proceed.

Derek Evans

Chief conciliator

Advisory, Conciliation and

Arbitration Service

Remember what the law is about

• Somewhere along the line, your correspondents on tribunal timewasting seem to have forgotten why we have employment law at all.

Fifty years ago, a contract of employment was like any other contract, and its breach or enforcement was a matter for the County Court.

But successive governments recognised that the power of the parties to it was so unequal – the employer with all its strength and resources versus the individual employee on their own – that employment law was needed to protect the employee’s interests.

From the sound of what most of your correspondents are saying, the need for that protection remains as strong as ever. Sacking people may be all in a day’s work for them, but is a serious matter for the people they are sacking.

An employer’s decision to dismiss should be capable of standing up to the strongest scrutiny, and the employer should be willing to defend it if called upon to do so.

Nigel Turner

Human resources director

Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust

Research shows firms do value IIP

• I would like to respond to the short news piece referring to research by the IRS which claimed that most employers felt that achieving the Investors in People standard has had no impact on their bottom line (News, 25 July).

This research analysed the responses of just 62 organisations that have the standard, when we know that there at least 40,478 organisations currently involved with it. This means that the IRS survey polled less than 0.1 per cent of organisations working with Investors in People.

Independent research conducted in October last year, with a far larger sample of 2,000 organisations, found that 70 per cent had increased their competitiveness and productivity, whilst 80 per cent increased customer satisfaction.

I would urge your readers not to be misled by the results of the small-scale IRS survey and to find out for themselves, by looking at more robust independent research findings which can be seen at our web site at www.iipuk.co.uk

Ruth Spellman

Chief executive

Investors in People UK

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