01 October, 2006
Employers are reminded that The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force on 1 October, except for the pension provisions which have been deferred until 1 December 2006 in order to determine if amendments are needed and to allow more time for compliance. The new legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age in employment and vocational training, unless this can be objectively justified. It prohibits direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation on age grounds.
Under the Regulations, retirement ages below 65 are unlawful unless they can be objectively justified. It is not age discrimination to have in place a compulsory retirement age of 65 or older but, if you do, new statutory procedures must be followed. These include giving employees at least six months' notice of their intended date of retirement and notifying them that they have the right to request to continue working beyond either the default retirement age or the normal retirement age set by the employer. Employers have a duty to consider such a request. It is therefore important to be aware of forthcoming retirements and to have the necessary systems in place for notifying employees and dealing with requests to continue working.
There are special rules that apply to employees due to retire between 1 October 2006 and 31 March 2007. If you have not yet taken action to comply with these transitional arrangements, contact us for advice.
The legislation also removes the upper age limits for unfair dismissal and redundancy.
In addition, the new law will have far reaching effects on many other aspects of employment. Employers who have not already done so should examine all current policies and practices where age is a factor to ensure that these do not discriminate against any age group.
Make sure your equality, bullying and harassment policies clearly state that discrimination on grounds of age will not be tolerated. Ensure that all staff are aware of the policy and provide any training necessary for its implementation. In addition, your IT policy should make it clear that email communications should not contain anything discriminatory. Incidents involving age discrimination, harassment or victimisation on age grounds must be dealt with promptly and any complaints dealt with appropriately. Failure to do so could result in you being held responsible. The penalties for age discrimination can be severe, with no upper limit to the compensation that an employment tribunal can award.
We can advise you on any aspect of the new legislation, how it affects your business and how to ensure that your employment practices, policies and procedures are fully compliant, so that all employees have equal access to help, guidance, development opportunities, promotion, remuneration and benefits, irrespective of their age.