Age Discrimination Laws Mean Major Upheaval; Legal Clinic in Association with RBS Age Discrimination Laws Are Set to Transform the Workplace. Tony McPhillips Head of the Employment Group at Muckle LLP Looks at the Implications No Employer Can Afford to Ignore

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony McPhillips

MANY hailed the new anti-age discrimination laws as representing the most significant upheaval in employment law for 30 years.

Employment practitioners warned that The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 could become a significant new cause of action and it now seems that they were right. According to recent statistics, 972 age discrimination claims were lodged between October 2006 and June 2007.

The scale of age discrimination claims at this early stage is very significant. Normally a new type of claim takes time to filter through as people gradually become aware of their rights, but age discrimination claims have taken off immediately. Due to the scope for claims under the regulations being so wide, age could eventually represent one of the largest and most popular forms of claim.

And the regulations are by no means settled. Age Concern, under the banner of its offshoot Heyday, is challenging the regulations, which still allow age discrimination to continue in some circumstances. The first element of the regulations to come under scrutiny is the default retirement age of 65, at which any employer can require employees to retire. Age Concern argues that this is not permitted by the European Directive on equal treatment. Also under scrutiny is the United Kingdom's approach to justifying direct age discrimination. The regulations allow employers to discriminate against workers on grounds of their age, provided the employer can show that they are justified in doing so. Age Concern says this gives employers far more freedom to discriminate than is allowed under the European Directive.

A ruling on these points is not expected until early 2009. However, if the European Court of Justice agrees with Age Concern the Government will have to amend the regulations accordingly. …


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