Discrimination - Legislation came into effect October
Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came in force on October 1
2006. This is the result of the long awaited Labour manifesto
pledge (dating from 1997) to put in place legislation to combat
regulations join the long standing anti sex and race discrimination
laws enacted by the previous Labour Government in the mid 1970’s
and is probably the most major change in UK employment law
since that time.
essence of the regulations is very simple. After October 1
2006 it is illegal to treat anyone differently and to their
detriment because of their age or age group (or apparent age/age
group). But the regulations also make it an offence if someone
is treated less favourably because they complained or challenged such
treatment, or is treated less favourably because they did not
carry out an instruction to act unlawfully with regard to age
discrimination. The regulations also cover circumstances where
an environment is created that is itself intimidating or hostile
as a result of age discrimination.
new rules apply to virtually every workplace scenario (recruitment,
training, promotion and dismissal) and applies specifically
to employment agencies in the way they provide their services.
Importantly, the regulations apply to employers where their
staff act in an unlawful manner, even when the employer was
not aware of this.
Government have anticipated many potential conflicts and specifically
allowed positive discrimination, the awards of enhanced treatment
for long service in employment and for retirement and minimum
wage rules. The regulations will be enforced via the Employment
tribunals and the burden of proof is on the respondent (the
employer in most cases) to demonstrate their innocence. Damages
can be awarded even if there is no material loss in the shape
of ‘compensation for injury to feelings’. There is even a statutory
form to challenge anyone who is suspected of breaching the
what does it all mean? For most employment agencies, not much.
Agencies despite their well documented faults in many respects,
are rarely discriminating unless instructed/forced to be so.
They always want the candidate to be offered the job – that’s
how they earn their living. Refusing to do so for some unsupportable
reason is an anathema to all recruitment agents for that reason
alone, even in the absence of more laudable motives. However,
all employers must be careful how they word job ads, recruit,
train, promote and dismiss staff. Many employers are blatant
age discriminators and that includes the great and the good
of the self appointed ‘Human Resources’ profession (The personnel
department as was!)
new laws are clearly good news for workers. Candidates must
be careful not to claim unlawful discrimination every time
they get turned down for a job. Discrimination on the grounds
of merit remains and will remain. Moreover, it does not mean
that experience of the right quantity and type will still not
be essential or that one can no longer have a reasonable expectation
of earning more as experience (and inevitably, age) is accumulated.
The point is age alone cannot be used as a factor.
power of the regulations is not the law itself but the effect
it will have on attitudes. There is no doubt since the race
and sex laws came into effect adherence to the rules was at
first ignored then done grudgingly until finally the long held
prejudices disappeared (in the most part). Few people would
argue that discriminatory practices throughout society have
reduced hugely in the last 30 years and there is no doubt with
age it will be the same.
discrimination, nevertheless differs from other types in one
way. We all grow older and pass from one group (the under 30’s
are the worst offenders) to another (the over 55’s are most
likely to be the victims). In most cases of other types of
unlawful discrimination, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion
and disability the status of the victim is constant. While
one might think this should make age discrimination and the
prejudices that fuel it easier to eradicate, we all know that
the relationship and tensions between young and old are deep
seated and in some aspects go back to our human nature itself.
Full text of the The
Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 click here.