Training strategy needs to be age discrimination proof too

It is disturbing to think that the majority of people in the HR profession hold potentially age discriminatory views when it comes to the over-50s and their training needs (‘HR expects most over-50s not to care about training’, PersonnelToday.com, 28 July).

If the HR profession has this attitude, then the position will presumably be worse for line managers in general who have probably not been exposed to as much information about the legislation and the risks involved, including the possibility of uncapped claims for damages.

Other strands of discrimination law come into play here, too: for example, training requiring physical activity may exclude the disabled, and the time at which training is organised might affect working mothers and constitute indirect sex discrimination.

A ‘one size fits all’ approach to training is outmoded and could be discriminatory.

To avoid age discrimination, organisations need to review how training budgets are allocated and ensure that there is not a disproportionate amount of the budget being allocated to graduate trainees, compared with developing the rest of the workforce. Managers, likewise, should not assume that older workers are less interested in learning and promotion opportunities.

A Health and Safety Executive report published in 2005, called Facts and Misconceptions About Age, Health Status and Employability, emphasised the inaccurate perceptions about older workers, including assumptions about resistance to change, difficulty learning new information, poorer cognitive functions and physical abilities.

It also showed that none of these stereotypes are likely to be true for most, let alone all, workers.

Such a report is likely to be used by employees who bring claims under the law as a club to beat unenlightened employers with.

Anna Denton, solicitor and dedicated trainer, employment, pensions and benefits practice, Morgan Cole

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