Employers don't understand age regulations, report reveals

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A new survey reveals that a whopping 71 per cent of employers think the new age discrimination regulations are difficult to interpret.

And 83 per cent believed the government should have done more to assist and help businesses prepare for the new laws.

Employment law firm Peninsula, which carried out the survey, revealed that its helpline had received 34,843 calls since the introduction of the age discrimination regulations.

But its managing director Peter Done is concerned that only 21 per cent of the 812 employers surveyed had begun to take action to implement the regulations, with 63 per cent saying they would look at their policies ‘as and when’ a situation arose.

“We have warned employers that they should have started looking at their policies from the beginning of the year,” said Done. “We can understand their frustration because the new rules are difficult to interpret. But ignorance is no defence.

“We have also found that a lot of employers have complained that there has been no help from the government and are angry. Companies are not against the new age discrimination laws; they simply want help and assistance.

“A right for an employee is an obligation for an employer. While we applaud the government for introducing these new measures we have to agree with employers in that more help should have been provided, as the law is complex and difficult to interpret.

“Most of the calls we receive ask for advice on interpreting the law, this is followed on advice being sought on technical details such as what can and cannot be said within job advertisements.

“Fortunately we did not see an increase in companies in attempting to retire workers before the introduction on 1 October.

“Companies are still forgetting that the legislation is not exclusive to older workers and this seems to be the biggest shock to employers: young workers need to be taken into account.”

But if some employers are ignoring the new regulations for the time being, others are worried. Done explained: “We even had a call from an employer who wanted to ask whether it’s OK to send a birthday card to one of their employers because they did not want to end up being sued for discriminating.

“Is this playing it too safe? Nobody knows yet because the law is new and there is no case law. Employers have to comply with the new rules because the penalties for getting it wrong could be serious, given that there is no cap on the compensation that tribunals can award.”

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