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Age discrimination laws will come into force in six months

16 March 2006
Age discrimination laws will come into force in six months

Employers in the hospitality sector have been urged to prepare themselves for age discrimination legislation or risk hefty fines and tribunal hearings.

Final proposals for the legislation were published last week and are due to come into force on 1 October, giving employers only six months to get their houses in order.

"It's no good waiting until 30 September to make changes," said Emma Perrera, an associate in the employment team at law firm Lewis Silkin. "The laws have wide-ranging implications for companies and evidence of workplace ageism prior to 1 October may be used to support any claims."

Helen Rice-Birchall, practice lawyer at law firm Eversheds, recommends employers review policies that cover each stage of the employment cycle, from recruitment and reward to promotion and dismissal.

"Employers should start auditing all their procedures now," she said.

Another sticking point for employers could be issues around retirement, said Rice-Birchall. The new legislation will give employees the right to request working beyond 65 and will impose a duty on employers to consider that request.

Employers must also ensure they avoid wording job advertisements to suggest only young people will be considered for a job.

This is a particular issue in the hospitality industry, where many catering and waiting staff are under 30, said Bob Cotton, chief executive at the British Hospitality Association.

"Both part-time and temporary workers are also included under the act," he warned.

How to prepare for the age discrimination legislation

  • Review any equal opportunities policies to ensure they incorporate age discrimination
  • Examine current recruitment/promotion procedures
  • Avoid words such as "young", "dynamic", "mature", or "lively" in job ads
  • Ensure applications forms don't ask for a candidate's ag
  • Examine the organisation's approach to retirement - can it be sustained and justified?
  • Consider allowing flexibility so employees can phase their retirement
  • Can you justify pay schemes linked to length of service and seniority?
  • Assess whether insurance schemes, medical benefits or sick pay differ based on age or length of service

By Ross Bentley

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