Transparency will help employers avoid ageism claims

Employers
are being warned that they risk legal claims from older workers if they fail to
be transparent in the way they manage forthcoming rules on age
discrimination. 

The
Government’s proposed legislation includes circumstances where age can still be
taken into account, but commercial law firm Beachcroft Wansbroughs is advising
employers to be completely transparent when making such decisions to ensure
good industrial relations.

Rachael
Heenan, an associate in Beachcroft Wansbroughs’ national employment practice,
said: "The grounds for ‘justification’ of ageism could be a threat as much
as an opportunity. Poorly managed processes, confusing communication or a lack
of employee involvement, could lead employees to cry foul even when the firm is
trying to do things by the book.

“The
damage to the firm’s reputation – both internally and externally – could be
huge. Once gained, the tag of being discriminatory is hard to lose. Given the
publicity that the proposals have had, many employees will be aware of their
rights, and will expect their employers to act fairly and proactively."

Heenan
is urging employers to take steps now to help prevent ‘age rage’ exploding in
the workplace.

"Employers
have some breathing space while the consultation process continues. They should
use this wisely by reviewing their policies and practices, and considering
whether and in what circumstances they would use the proposed
‘justifications’,” she said.

"They
should then establish clear processes for taking relevant business decisions,
and keep employees informed about these processes. Taking these steps now could
help to maintain harmonious employee relations moving forward."

By
Quentin Reade

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