Employers Open to Accusations of Ageism

Following the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA) in October 2011, employers have not been able to give notice of retirement to employees, but many bosses still don’t understand the legislation and implications and are leaving themselves open to accusations of ageism, claim employment law experts from ELAS.

According to the Manchester-based business support consultancy, only 46% of workers aged over 65 receive a formal performance appraisal at least once a year, while 51% had received no training or an offer of training in the past three years.

ELAS employment law expert, Peter Mooney, said:

“We’re finding that most businesses are still expecting their employees to retire at the age of 65 and are treating them accordingly. Asking an employee about when they intend to retire or assuming that a member of staff over the age of 65 has no training ambitions or performance management needs are sure-fire ways to end up in an employment tribunal accused of ageism.”

“Businesses must be more aware of what the new legislation means, and take proactive measures to ensure that all their staff are treated exactly the same – whether they are 18 or 80 years old. Lazy management of older staff members paves the way for discrimination claims if there is a dispute over capability.”

Meanwhile, 27% of UK workers aged 45-54 who work with other people believe their employer puts colleagues with children or families first, according to a YouGov survey of 1,175 working adults with colleagues, carried out for HR and health and safety information provider Croner.

Under employment law, parents of young children (and older children with disabilities) can ask to work flexibly, while others who don’t have such commitments cannot. Carol Smith, senior employment consultant at Croner, said:

“Flexible working for people with families is a good thing. The Government has done much to improve and modernise UK legislation so that more people can work flexibly to improve their work-life balance. However, it is not good news for the UK’s older workers, after the Government shelved plans to extend flexible working.”

In spite of the absence of extended flexible working legislation, Smith recommends that employers make sure that their flexible working policies do not disadvantage other workers.

“This will not only help to avoid possible workplace conflict, but also improve employee relations, help with recruitment and retaining staff and almost certainly improve productivity.”

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