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Age Discrimination

23rd Apr 2007 - 00:00
By Clare Fowler of law firm Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons

We are now several months on from one of the most important changes in employment law when the 'age discrimination regulations' [Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006] were introduced in October last year. But what do they really mean for your organisation? A broad range of people are covered, including: applicants for employment and existing employees, temps, and volunteers who are paid more than their expenses or provided with training. All the above are protected from less favourable treatment on the grounds of their age, treatment that impacts less favourably on one age group than another, harassment on the grounds of age and victimisation on the grounds of having made their own or supported someone else's allegations of age discrimination. The protection is not restricted to older people but includes any age-related treatment. The regulations removed the maximum age for bringing a claim of unfair dismissal, so any employee who is dismissed has the right to test that decision in the Employment Tribunal. This means it will be even more vital for employers to follow statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures with employees of all ages. The maximum age limit for entitlement to a redundancy payment has also been removed. So employees with at least two years' service who are made redundant after they are 65 are entitled to a redundancy payment at the same level as any other employee. However, the regulations do allow a default retirement age of 65 or older for employees. Significantly this has already been challenged in the High Court as discriminatory in itself. It means that at the moment, if the reason for dismissing an employee at or after age 65 is retirement and the specific statutory procedure below has been followed, such a dismissal will be fair and not age discriminatory. Employees must be notified of their intended date of retirement 12 to six months before that date, together with a specific reminder that they have the right to request to continue working beyond that date. An employer then has to consider any request made, and hold a series of meetings and appeals if the request is refused. The penalty for failing to comply with this procedure could be a finding at Employment Tribunal of automatically unfair dismissal and age discrimination. The default retirement age raises the question of whether employers should set a default age, and whether they should agree all, any or none of the requests they receive from employees to work beyond that age. Employers must also consider what to do with existing employees who are already over 65. Organisations should carefully monitor their approach to advertising and recruiting into positions, audit contracts and policies and consider any age-related practices such as long-service awards and age limits to see if they can be objectively justified, ensure their employees/members/volunteers are aware of the new regulations, ensure that decisions on promotion, training, discipline and redundancy are made on the basis of objective assessments of skills and behaviour not age, and ensure that the default retirement age is set at 65 or above and that the statutory procedure is followed on retirement. For more information, please contact Clare Fowler at Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons on 02392 530387, email:, or visit:

Written by
PSC Team