With less than three months to go, HR professionals should be well-familiarised with the detail of the new age regulations. Age-based HR procedures should be in the process of being adapted, if they have not been already, and organisations should be aware that the new regulations cover many HR-related issues, including vocational training.
The government recognises that a dynamic economy can only be achieved by giving everyone an equal chance to develop their skills and maximise their employment potential. Equal access to vocational training means greater employability for workers, and more satisfying workplace experience.
Any in-house training programme or any training provided by contractors – whatever their size or sector – should adhere to the anti-ageism regulations.
Training providers include employers, further or higher education institutions, private, public or voluntary sector training bodies, and adult education programmes.
All courses offered by universities and other institutions of further or higher education will be covered. This will create a uniform regime and provide legal certainty for both institutions and individuals.
Although the bulk of the regulations focus on employers and vocational trainers, they also cover the bodies that confer the qualifications achieved as a result of that training.
All schools, including those that provide sixth-form education, are excluded from the regulations on the grounds that the education of pupils in schools is not vocational training. However, schools will be subject to the legislation in their role as employers.
Limiting age limits
Under the regulations, training providers will not be able to set age limits for entry to training, unless they can show there is a real need to apply them, or positive action is necessary to give people of a particular age access to vocational training Ð to prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to age.
Where there are no formal minimum or maximum age limits, they will need to look at whether age is taken into account when considering applications for admission.
If an employee seeking access to, or already on, a vocational training course feels they have been discriminated against on the grounds of age, they may have a case for legal action, either against the employer or training provider.
How will the rules apply in practice
A training provider runs an IT course but only offers places to people under the age of 45. It considers people over this age to be incapable of learning IT skills. When the age regulations come into force, prejudices about older peopleÍs abilities will be discriminatory, and this approach will be unlawful.
To avoid discrimination, the training provider could adapt its admissions procedures. Rather than denying access to people over a certain age, it could instead require all applicants to sit an aptitude test and award places based on these results. This would not contravene the regulations.
Vocational training providers will have to consider their reasons for applying age limits to their courses, and remove any that cannot be objectively justified.
For guidance on how the regulations affect vocational training, go to www.dti.gov.uk/employment/discrimination/age-discrimination/page26492.html
To see the age regulations, go to www.dti.gov.uk/er/equality/age.htm
In my next article, I will discuss how the regulations will impact on service-related benefits in the workplace.