Simply-docs Advises Employers on the October 2006 Age Discrimination Directive

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The Age Discrimination Directive 2006 came into force this month. It is now unlawful to discriminate against workers, employees, job seekers and trainees on the basis of their age. Simply-docs offer correct and up-to-date business and legal documents and procedures to help businesses deal with such age equality changes.

From 1st October 2006, the UK Age Discrimination Act came into effect. This UK age discrimination legislation will affect how you select and recruit staff, how you manage staff including training, promotion and performance appraisal through to how you deal with age equality issues in retirement and redundancy.

Employers are warned that employees who feel they are subject to age discrimination, harassment or victimisation at work may be unhappy, less productive and less motivated; resign or make a complaint to an employment tribunal. Above all, employers are advised that such action may result in damage to reputation, the need to make payments in compensation and an increase in costs due to a high employee turnover. Employers must now take positive action to prevent or compensate for disadvantages related to age.

It is now recommended that:

· "Date of Birth" should be excluded from Job Application forms

· Job adverts should avoid words that may be deemed as age discrimination

· Your Equality and Diversity Policy / Equal Opportunity Policy (if you have one) should include age as a discriminatory criteria

· All staff should be made aware that it is a breach of your Disciplinary Rules to discriminate, harass or victimise someone on the grounds of age

· Employees should be informed of the action they can take if they consider they are subject to age discrimination, harassment or victimisation at work

· Training and promotion opportunities should not be denied to employees on the basis of age

· Employers should maintain records to monitor the effectiveness of their Equal Opportunities Policy (inclusive of age)

· Compulsory retirement below the age of 65 (unless objectively justified) is banned

· Employers cannot make employees redundant on the basis of age and must give consideration to a request by an employee to work beyond the retirement date

· The upper age limit for unfair dismissal has also been removed

The age discrimination regulations make it unlawful to treat someone less favourably than another because of their age, unless objectively justified. This applies to decisions whether or not to employ someone, dismiss them, provide them with training, promote them or give them normal or adverse terms and conditions of employment. This, of course, should already be in your Equal Opportunities Policy. It is also made clear in the new legislation that employers are not permitted to retire an employee before usual retirement age without an objective justification.

Employers are not permitted to apply a criterion, provision or practice that disadvantages people of a particular age unless it can be objectively justified. Objective justification could include fixing a maximum age for the recruitment or promotion of employees (a maximum age could reflect training requirements or the need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement). Where a person is older than, or within six months of, normal retirement age, the employer is exempt from objective justification for refusing to recruit that person.

Harassment at work includes behaviour that is offensive, frightening or in any way distressing. It may be intentional bullying which is obvious or violent, but it can also be unintentional, subtle and insidious. This behaviour should be stated as unacceptable in your Equal Opportunities Policy and/or Diversity Policy. An employer may be held to be responsible for the actions of its employees, as well as the employees being individually responsible. Given that harassment at work can be unintentional, employers are advised to brief managers and supervisors to be aware of and deal with any potential problems in a quick and sympathetic manner.

Victimisation at work occurs when an individual is treated detrimentally because they have made a complaint or intend to make a complaint about age discrimination or harassment at work or have given evidence or intend to give evidence relating to a complaint about age discrimination or harassment at work. Being labelled as a 'troublemaker' or ostracism from a group can constitute victimisation. Employers may be held liable for any victimisation that occurs in the workplace.

The age discrimination regulations set the default retirement age at 65. Employers can derogate from this age - either upwards, or downwards if there is objective justification. They also remove age limits at which employees can claim for unfair dismissal and/or redundancy payment, unless there is a genuine retirement. Employees have the right to request to work beyond the age of 65, and employers have a duty to consider such requests. They are not under an obligation to retain the employee, nor give a reason for turning down such a request.

Simply-docs make the task of keeping up with the regulatory changes simple. Correct and up-to-dated business and legal documents and procedures can help prevent you from falling foul of the law and costly compensation. For additional information on this new age discrimination regulation and other regulations that may affect you contact Iain Mackintosh or visit http://www.simply-docs.co.uk.

About Simply-docs:

Simply-docs is the latest fulfilment of Simply-4-Business Limited's mission to enable small and medium enterprises (SME's) and owner managers to put in place correct documentation and procedures, and then to keep pace with and comply with regulatory change at an affordable cost.

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Iain Mackintosh
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