July 2006

The Age Regulations 2006 could wreak havoc in the tribunals system

The implementation of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 on the 1st October has led many legal experts to warn of an alarming rise in the number of companies facing a hearing at an employment tribunal. Several recent surveys have shown how unprepared employers are to meet the demands of the new legislation.

The Department for Work and Pensions collated data from 2000 employers around Great Britain on practices regarding promotion and redundancy as well as attitudes and awareness. The survey revealed many interesting and worrying facts including that although 66% of companies were aware of the regulations, only 7% knew the date when they would come into force.

Research conducted by the London School of Economics discovered that workplace culture, as well as practice, may also be leaving employers vulnerable to claims of unfair discrimination on the basis of age, the penalties for which will be just as serious as for other forms of discrimination. Interestingly most participants in this research did not think age was a factor in workplace diversity, that certain jobs were reserved for people of certain ages and that ageism was considered more 'acceptable' than other forms of discrimination.

The Essential Guide to Employment Law seminar gives full details of the requirements and implications of the Age Regulations.

The essential points of the Age Regulations are as follows

  • It will be illegal to discriminate on the basis of age for the purposes of recruitment, promotion and training;
  • it will be unlawful to set a retirement age below 65 without objective justification (something the DWP have indicated will be difficult to prove);
  • the current age limit for sick pay, unfair dismissal and redundancy rights will be removed;
  • employees will have the right to request working beyond retirement age and employers have a duty to give a considered response to that request; and
  • employers must give employees at least 6 months notice of their intended retirement date.

The Local Government Employers organisation (LGE) have advised that employers should profile their workforce, provide training for all staff, eliminate discriminatory practices and improve the work-life balance of their organisation so that workers of all ages can both contribute to and benefit from their time in employment. The guidelines are available on the LGE website. Another excellent set of guidelines is also available from ACAS and you can download a copy by visiting their website here.

The DWP provides a handbook for businesses entitled 'Age Diversity at Work, A Practical Guide for Business' which you can download here.

The Government's view is that these regulations are a positive step forward to ensuring that everybody in the workplace receives fair and equitable treatment.


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