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New law puts an end to age discrimination

28 September 2006

The recruitment practices of hospitality operators will come into sharp focus when new age discrimination legislation kicks in on 1 October, experts have predicted.

Common industry practices such as requesting an individual's age during the interview process, placing adverts for "young and dynamic" staff and overlooking young employees for management roles are the likeliest routes to trouble, according to lawyers.

"Image is a key issue for hospitality businesses, but recruiting for ‘youthful', ‘trendy' or ‘dynamic' workers is no longer an option," said James Davies, head of employment at law firm Lewis Silkin. "And it is not just the processes that need to be sorted - the end result is key. If it can be proved that all your staff are still young, it doesn't matter how good your processes are - you can still be sued."

Guy Guinan, employment partner at law firm Halliwells, warned that individuals could be held personally liable for discrimination against a colleague. By making staff aware of this and providing guidance on the new rules, businesses can minimise the costs of future legal claims, he said.

The comments came as a survey from the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) revealed that more than half of the working public was unaware of the new regulations. It also showed that ageist attitudes remained entrenched, with 53% of the 1,000 respondents suggesting that the ideal age for a bartender was under 30.

Sam Mercer, director of the EFA, said: "Employers in the hospitality industry are going to have to take another look at how they recruit and retain people as traditionally they tend to employ younger staff. This could leave them vulnerable to challenges of ageism."

Industry issues

  • Hospitality employers are less likely than other industries to employ people over the age of 55.
  • The sector is less likely to have equal opportunities policies in place to prevent unfair discrimination from occurring.
  • One in five hospitality firms use age to determine starting salaries, 10% use age as a recruitment criterion and 8% still specify age in job advertisements.

Source: Age Positive

By Daniel Thomas

E-mail your comments to Daniel Thomas here.

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