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"Too old" - a thing of the past

Autumn 2006 Taking Account

It is now illegal to discriminate by age in recruitment, selection, promotion, provision of benefits and retirement of employees, unless the different treatment can be justified objectively.

Regulations that came into effect on 1 October 2006 prohibit unjustified direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of age against employees, prospective employees, trainees and self-employed individuals of any age.

The age discrimination regulations join legislation prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation. The new rules also remove the upper age limit on claims for unfair dismissal, redundancy rights and statutory sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption pay. However, it remains possible to reward employees by reference to length of service of up to five years, and longer if it can be justified.

The regulations include new procedures for retirement. Employers cannot require an employee to retire before the employer's normal retirement age or below the age of 65. If the employer's normal retirement age is below 65, it must be objectively justified.

Employers should notify employees of their intended retirement date between six and twelve months in advance. Employees who want to continue working must put in a request at least three months before the notified retirement date. The employer must discuss the request with the employee before making a decision. The employee then has a right of appeal.

Detailed guidance for employers on the new rules is available from the Department of Trade and Industry, Age Partnership and ACAS websites.

Hilton Sharp & Clarke