Age question must be answered now
Age question must be answered nowOn 15 Jan 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article HR professionals must contribute to the Government’s new consultation todevelop effective discrimination lawsAs employers wade through the latest Government consultation documentTowards Equality and Diversity – Implementing the Employment and RaceDirectives (News, 18 December) they may be forgiven for not giving Chapter 15due attention. They should, however, because age laws have the potential to move forwardthe age and employment debate significantly, with a positive impact on theworkplace. Alternatively, legislation based on poor consultation could displace currentgood practice and leave employers and individuals considerably worse off. Unlike race and gender discrimination laws, direct discrimination on thegrounds of age will be allowed, but only if an employer can prove thedifference in treatment is ‘objectively and reasonably justified’. This soundsfair, but is likely to lead to heated debate. Indirect discrimination could create dispute. While it is possible toestablish comparator pools for gender, race and disability, age is difficult.What is young or old? This may be a legal question, but employers must ensurethe Government resolves the issue or we could be left with problems. It is only when you carefully consider direct and indirect discrimination onthe basis of age that the complexity of forming workable law becomes apparent. This reinforces the Employers Forum on Age campaign that government must domore to make employers fully aware of the current consultation process, toensure they have at least some opportunity to consider the implications of agediscrimination law on their business. The challenges employers are likely to face include separating experiencefrom age when recruiting, ensuring they are not discriminating against an olderor younger worker and managing the workforce without mandatory retirement. Other issues involve customer demands, costs, return on investment, age as aproxy for performance and succession planning. The first stage in the consultation process is about encouraging employersto look at their policies and decide if they can justify current practices. Itis vital and likely to lead to disagreement. Until employers really considerthe impact of law on their own practices, we are unable to fully understandpotential exemptions and issues for debate at the next stage of theconsultation. Age legislation will also impact on other employment law and firms mustensure government considers the changes necessary to make age laws workable. Timing and process will also be critical. EFA members argue that employersneed a minimum of two years to comply, once legislation is drafted. This willimpact on the process itself and while the Government’s concept of a two stageapproach to the age consultation is sensible, given the 2006 deadline, we mustensure drafting legislation isn’t delayed. There is already media debate on whether an age commission should be set up,which is undoubtedly important. Rightly, employers should consider whether itwould be better policed by an age commission, or as part of one super equalitycommission debate. But is it a priority? Many argue employers should be more concerned withdebating exemptions and should not get sidetracked into an extended debate oncommission issues at this stage. It is important that we do not forget why we are doing this. Age legislationis not about forcing employers to recruit and retain people unable to do a job,it is about sending out the message that the 21st century workplace focuses onability, not age. By Samantha Mercer, a campaign director at the Employers Forum on Age www.efa.org.uk Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.