Acas warns employers not to ignore rights of younger workers as Age Discrimination Act comes into force
Acas, Britain's leading employment organisation, has warned businesses that ageism is not exclusive to the older generation.
From 1 October, the Age Discrimination regulations make it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of their age. There is a risk that employers may be focusing solely on how it affects their older employees.
Acas Chair Rita Donaghy said:
"It's easy to forget that age discrimination can affect all employees, from the youngest to the oldest. Rightly, there has been a lot of publicity about older workers - but we shouldn't forget that the new legislation will require employers to change their behaviour towards the younger generation as well. It is equally unacceptable to describe someone as being 'wet behind the ears' as it is to call them 'over the hill'".
Ms Donaghy added:
"DTI anticipates that there may be 8,000 age discrimination cases brought to UK tribunals in the first year, so employers really can't afford to go sleepwalking into this. But they should not feel they are on their own either. Acas' prime concern is to prevent the need for such cases by helping bosses to get it right in the first place.
"We provide advice and training to meet the needs of any organisation that wants help with the new requirements, whether it's about recruitment, promotion or retirement. I strongly recommend employers visit our website on www.acas.org.uk to find out how we can help them."
According to the DTI, UK employers waste up to £700 million1 a year by making age-based assumptions about their staff - and failing to capitalise on their potential, abilities and experience as a result.
- There are some simple steps that companies can take to overcome age bias in the workplace:
- Recruitment advertisements - avoid specifying length of experience as this disadvantages certain age groups
- Application forms - ask for date of birth on equality monitoring forms only and use skills based forms
- Selection procedures - train managers to avoid stereotypes
- Training - make sure it is open to all employees
- Performance appraisal - set the same standards regardless of age
- Redundancy policy - review your policies: using length of service to select employees for redundancy is likely to be discriminatory
- Equality policy - add age to your current policy
Acas has over 30 years' expertise in good employment practice. Its guidance - Age and the workplace - is available free online from the Acas website (www.acas.org.uk). If employers or employees need further help, they can call the helpline on 08457 47 47 47 for free confidential advice or register online for one of Acas' training courses, which are available throughout Britain.
The employer guidance covers the key issues, including training, equal opportunities, recruitment, promotion, performance appraisals, sickness pay, conditions, benefits, redundancy, pensions and retirement. It will help employers to recognise that being age-positive is a business advantage, not just a legal requirement.
Notes to editors
- Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.
- Acas guidance can be downloaded free of charge from the Acas website (www.acas.org.uk): Age and the workplace: a guide for employers and employees [336kb]
 DTI Fact Sheet No 1 March 2006, www.dti.gov.uk/employment/discrimination/age-discrimination
For press enquiries please contact Kimberley Huggins or Lou Owen, Tel: 020 7210 3894/3920.
Out of office hours, please contact the press office on 07900 406992