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Age Discrimination – Are You Prepared?


Stuart Chamberlain, employment law expert and author from Consult GEE, comments on research conducted by the Department of Work and Pensions, and sets out the steps employers should take to avoid discrimination claims.

Recent research undertaken for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) shows how far many employers have to go in order to be sure that they will not be in contravention of age discrimination legislation that becomes operative in October.

The research was based on a representative survey of 2,087 establishments in Britain with five or more employees, and was conducted between November 2004 and May 2005. Amongst other things, it showed that linkages between pay and length of service and experience remain commonplace and that over 50 per cent of employees' annual leave entitlements are driven by length of service.

Most employees still work in organisations where there is a compulsory retirement age, and nearly 50 per cent of employers had a maximum recruitment age.

The research found examples of age and length of service being used as criteria for access to training, and length of experience being used as the main criterion for promotion. Some employers continue to use age as a main criterion in redundancy selection.

Bearing in mind that these practices were still in place only a year ago, it must be questionable whether employers will have found the time to assess and amend them before next October.

The study found that employer attitudes were far from being 100 per cent behind the principles of eliminating age as a determining factor in relation to employment. More than one in five employers still believed that some jobs in their establishment were more suitable for certain ages than for others.

Awareness of the impending regulations (and of just how soon they will bite) was also found to be quite poor amongst employers.

How far employers will be able to justify policies and procedures that are apparently age-discriminatory remains an open question, but the study suggests that many employers have yet to begin thinking through the issues or identifying the practices they might need to justify.

The DWP study suggests that, by this stage, employers in all sectors should not only be auditing their practices in order to protect themselves from potential discrimination claims, but should also be publicising the fact that they are undertaking such audits.


The following checklist will assist employers to ensure Equal Opportunities when recruiting.

Ensuring Equal Opportunities in Job Advertisements

  • Review all existing advertising material to ensure that it is free from sex bias.
  • Scrutinise the wording of all advertisements to ensure there are no potentially sexist job titles, e.g. salesman. In this context the title 'manager' has been deemed not to have a sexual connotation and can be freely used (although the term 'manageress' should not be used).
  • Examine wording for ambiguity or for any possible risk of misinterpretation.
  • Assess the objectivity of any requirements or conditions stated in the advertisement to ensure they are not indirectly discriminatory against men or women.
  • Review the range of publications/other media in which advertisements are placed to ensure these are not confined to areas which could exclude or reduce the number of applications from women.
  • Check the advertisement to assess whether the image of the organisation which is portrayed - for example, in a picture - could inadvertently convey the impression of an all-male workforce.
  • Assess any potential age limits to ensure they are not likely to have an adverse impact on women.
  • Ensure there is a statement within the advertisement that the organisation is an equal opportunities employer, or that all vacancies are open to men and women.
  • Further information, template documents, articles and news can be found on Consult GEE HR /www.


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