Brainfood: Workplace rights - For old-timers' sake

The biggest employment law reform in a generation is a step closer, following the publication of draft legislation outlawing ageism in the workplace. From October 2006, unjustified discrimination on grounds of age will be unlawful in all areas of employment, including recruitment, promotion, pay and dismissal. Say a company decides to replace a 55-year-old senior manager earning £200,000 and on six months' notice. Currently, they'd have to pay £100,000 notice pay plus about £60,000 unfair dismissal compensation at most. Under the new laws, the manager would be able to assert ageist stereotyping and prejudice, particularly if replaced by a younger model. Compensation will be unlimited under the regulations, so his claim for future losses could exceed £1 million. But a crucial aspect of the legislation whiffs strongly of fudge. Employers will still be allowed to force employees to retire at 65 or over, as long as they properly consider individuals' requests to continue working. Since staff who stay on will retain age-discrimination protection, many employers will inevitably take the 'safe' option of insisting all employees retire at 65 - an ironic outcome when we should all be working longer to tackle the impending pensions crisis.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com.

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