Monday, 22 May 2006

Don't fear age rules

Shropshire employers who treat their staff fairly need not fear new rules on age discrimination.

The new legislation takes effect on October 1, and bans most forms of age discrimination in the workplace, as well as setting the national retirement age at 65.

But John Mehtam, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said in reality, the new guidelines should cause few problems for companies where people were already treated fairly and with consideration.

“Many companies are concerned about the new rules, and the penalties are certainly severe if firms fail to stick to the criteria.

“But if employers act now and ensure they get the right advice on just how the rules must be implemented, most right-thinking companies should find they have very few changes to make.”

John said ACAS, the conciliation service had issued new guidance on the legislation, to try to reassure employers.

“It takes companies through every possible situation where age discrimination could crop up, from first recruiting staff, to promoting them, training, discipline, and rewards, through to retirement.

“The guidance includes suggestions such as removing age or date of birth requests from application forms, and avoiding words such as energetic, young or mature when advertising for new staff.

“And employers will also have to ensure ageist jokes are banned from the workplace to avoid any possible harassment claims.

“But in companies where employees are already treated with respect, many of these new rules are probably already being followed - the new legislation is merely formalising the situation.

“Employers should not be facing the start of October with dread, but taking every opportunity to find out all they can before the deadline comes round, and so make sure they are well prepared in advance.”