'Confusing' Laws on Age Bias Force Whitehall on to Back Foot
Byline: By Alan Jones
The Government yesterday defended new laws to stamp out age discrimination in the workplace after employers complained they were 'confusing', only days before they come into force.
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said there was bound to be a degree of uncertainty when new legislation was introduced. 'We've tried to put in place something that is common sense, something that will also help change people's attitude towards age - because unfortunately there is a minority of people who do discriminate because of age.'
Mr Darling said one in three workers would be over 50 in 15 years' time, and it would not make any sense for the country or for business to 'ignore' them.
'Discriminating against you just because you're older has no place in a modern society.
'We are determined to create a world where the best person for the job is just that - the best person. The new laws will help do that.'
But research among 150 organisations employing almost 500,000 people shows that many are retaining practices that would fall foul of the regulations, which will be introduced tomorrow.
The research, by law firm Eversheds, shows that fewer than two out of three firms have trained managers involved in recruitment on the implications of the new laws, which are aimed at tackling discrimination such as including ages in job adverts.
Matthew Knowles, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said, 'It is not surprising that this change in the law is causing confusion for businesses. The information campaign has left a lot to be desired and many firms are still unsure of what is required of them.
'We hope small firms caught out in the initial few months will be given support and advice to get things right rather than be hammered straight away.'
Tim Bull, of Saga, said, 'We have long recognised the valuable role that today's over-50s play in the workplace and are delighted that people who genuinely feel they have been unfairly discriminated against will have the opportunity for redress. …