Reward strategies should not be derailed by discrimination risks

Legal claims of age discrimination and sex discrimination should not be allowed to affect reward programmes, a leading HR practitioner has said.

Last week, legal experts and industry groups warned of the potential for discrimination claims to grow as employers seek to revamp their rewards offerings.

Victoria Moore, general manager for reward and pensions at high street retailer Comet,told Personnel Today that increased numbers of age discrimination cases had affected many businesses’ long-service recognition schemes.

“Valuing long service and loyalty has become much more difficult in an era of age discrimination claims,” Moore said.

“It’s not unusual for a retailer to have someone working for you for their entire life, and employers should still be able to recognise loyalty. We’re not discriminating on the grounds of age, and the intention of legislation shouldn’t be about punishing businesses for rewarding loyalty.”

She said that providing dinners and awards for employees who had been with the company for 20 or more years would remain part of the company’s reward strategy.

At the annual CIPD Reward conference in London, Moore told attendees that non-financial benefits were key to successful retention and motivation of staff in cash-strapped times.

David Ludlow, employment partner at law firm Barlow Robbins,added that employers had a history of ignoring collective information legislation, often at their own peril.

“Changing benefits offerings is a risky process,” Ludlow told Perosnnel Today.


“In times of recession when there’s less money about, there is greater scope for pay disparity to increase because workers perceived as more productive have to be incentivised despite the downturn and recession, so there is a temptation for the employer to pay people who can work longer hours and more responsively than those who have responsibilities like childcare commitments.”

Last year, advocacy groups warned of a surge of age discrimination claims in 2009.

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