Age Discrimination – Employer Advice

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From 1 October 2006, new laws protected workers from age discrimination. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees, trainees or job seekers because of their age and ensure that all workers, regardless of age, have the same rights in terms of training and promotion.
This new legislation protects employees in much the same way as other existing discrimination legislation on Sex, Race, Disability etc.

The main points of the new Regulations are as follows:
A national default retirement age of 65 means that employers can no longer force someone to retire before then – unless objectively justified where there is a genuine occupational requirement. Such justification is likely to prove difficult and the only possible example quoted is that of an actor required to play a character of a certain age.

There is no longer an upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy. Older workers have the same rights as younger workers to claim unfair dismissal or receive a redundancy payment, unless there is a genuine retirement.

The Regulations allow pay and non-pay benefits to continue which depend on length of service requirements of 5 years or less or which recognise and reward loyalty and experience and motivate staff.

All employees will have the right to request to work beyond the age of 65 or any other retirement age set by the employer (above 65), and employers will have a duty to reasonably consider, although not to accept, such a request. This will involve an employee meeting with their employer to discuss the request and an appeal process if necessary.

Employers must give at least six months notice to employees about their intended retirement date so that individuals can plan better for retirement, and be confident that “retirement” is not being used as cover for unfair dismissal.

Age limits are removed for statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay, statutory adoption pay and statutory paternity pay, so that the legislation for all four statutory payments applies in exactly the same way.

Lower and upper age limits in the statutory redundancy scheme are removed, but will leave the current age-banded system in place.

The Regulations provide exemptions for many age-based rules in occupational pension schemes. The new laws do not affect the age at which people can claim their state pension.


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