Is your organisation ready for the anti-ageism law?

4 October 2006

05 October 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor

Almost a fifth of buyers' organisations are not prepared for the anti age discrimination employment law that came into force on 1 October.

In response to a poll by SM, 19 per cent of buyers said their employers were not ready for the changes.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 ban age discrimination including terms of recruitment, promotion and training. This means all HR practices must be age-neutral. Job ads looking for "young dynamic staff" could be found to be discriminatory.

The regulations also ban unjustified retirement ages of below 65. Employers must give at least six months' notice to employees about their intended retirement date, so they can be confident it is not being used as cover for unfair dismissal.

While the vast majority (81 per cent) said their organisation was geared up for the change, many had concerns.

Don Sherwood, director of a procurement consultancy, told SM: "The organisation I regularly work for is not ready, nor has the HR department any strategies or policies in mind or in place to deal with the new law."

Simeon Bennett, head of procurement at The Learning Trust, a not-for-profit company managing education in Hackney, east London told SM that while he believed their HR team was ready, it had not issued guidance to managers and "ignorance is not an excuse".

Professional engineering buyer David Attwood told SM: "We are not ready for the new law. We do not have a HR department and we were unaware of the change in the law until this poll."

But while others were aware, some were doubtful if it would work or was advisable.

Adam Smith, senior buyer at heating elements manufacturer Ceramaspeed, said: "Faced with a pile of CVs, employers looking for "young dynamic staff", for example, are likely to purge applications from those aged 40 or over. This is instant age discrimination, but unlikely to be detectable."

He added that stricter employment laws would make the UK economy less competitive than the US, China, India and Eastern Europe, "where it is much easier to hire and fire staff of any age".

Guy Allen, director of sourcing and supply services at business services company Fujitsu Services, said that while the rules were well-intended, they could become ridiculous: "I have seen interpretations that suggest I would not be allowed to ask for someone with, for example, 10 years' experience. Similarly, that I would not be able to advertise for someone with 'energy'. Both are absurd."

But Nick Harries, director of European purchasing at marketing and communications company Interpublic, welcomed the change.

"An acceptance that age does not diminish a person's capability to perform a particular role is long overdue," he said.

See Law in the 2 November issue of SM


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