29 September 2006
As employers and employees return to work next week, the employment landscape will have changed. On October 1st a new law comes into force - the Employment Equality (AGE) Regulations (2006) Act. This stems from an EU directive that places an obligation on governments to outlaw discrimination at work on the grounds of age. In the same way that legislation attempted to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation and religion, now employers will not be able to specify a preference for 'young enthusiastic individual' or 'would suit retired person' in job adverts.
Once the new laws come into force, employers are going to have to consider the effect it will have on all aspects of the way that they deal with employees and potential employees. This might include not only recruitment but also promotion, the training that employees receive, pay, pension provision and redundancy. This might, for example, have an effect on companies who offer increments based on the number of years a worker has been employed, organisations - many schools and colleges included, who have a policy on the age at which an individual retires and so on.
If an individual believes that they have been discriminated against on the grounds of age they can take their case to an employment tribunal. If an organisation is found guilty of breaching the new laws they can face unlimited fines. The new laws are meant to be of benefit not only to the elderly but also to the young who are sometimes discriminated against and given low paid jobs on account of their 'lack of experience'.
The precise way the rules will operate will not be clear until various cases have been tested in law and precedents are set. What is clear is that employers will have to prove that they were not discriminating on the basis of age and in addition are able to offer something called an 'objective justification'. This will allow them to be able to gain an exemption to the law provided they can offer a good enough argument for doing so - it will have to be very convincing however.
The laws will affect different businesses in different ways. Some will find that their costs will rise as they have to adjust to new pension rules and the possibility that they could be offering fringe benefits like private health insurance or life assurance to staff that choose to work beyond 60. Others might find themselves in difficult situations in recruitment. There would be nothing stopping a firm from having to employ a 60 year old to work in a young persons fashion store or equally a very young person from working in an organisation that deals with the elderly. A business associated with the young, such as advertising, public relations (PR) and IT, might now find that it has to think more carefully about the way it words its adverts and the grounds on which it recruits and deals with its employees.
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Using examples, explain the difference between a job description and a person specification as part of a recruitment process. (6 marks)
The new legislation may add to businesses costs as highlighted in the article. How might a business cope with this rise in costs (6 marks)
What are the possible effects that discrimination in the workplace can have on the labour market? (8 marks)
Discuss some of the potential difficulties facing firms in establishing a recruitment policy based around the new laws. (8 marks)
5. To what extent would you agree with the view that legislation such as the new Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 Act is placing an intolerable burden on business? (12 marks)