Memorandum from Recruitment and Employment
The REC is the trade association for the recruitment
and staffing industry in the UK. It has some 6,000 corporate members,
representing over 50 per cent of the recruitment industry in the
UK. Its members range from small independent businesses to multi-national
organisations. The REC operates in virtually all aspects of the
employment market except theatrical and entertainment. The REC
has a regional structure and a number of specialist interest sections
within its membership. Feedback from the industry informs this
2. AGE DISCRIMINATION
The REC believes that it is important in creating
employment prospects to challenge age discrimination. By 2010
almost 40 per cent of the labour force will be over 45, whilst
16-24 year olds will make up only 17 per cent of the workforce.
Appendix A shows the efforts that some agencies have taken to
promote good practice in avoiding age discrimination in practice.
The recruitment industry is uniquely placed
to challenge discriminatory practices of all forms including age
discrimination, as it work constructively with employers and job
seekers alike. It is a gateway for employment and in 1999-2000
found permanent employment for 500,000 job seekers. In addition
in any given week there are over a million temporary workers on
The REC sets standards for the recruitment industry
and has a Code of Good Recruitment Practice by which its members
agree to operate. The REC monitors practise against the standards
and may discipline or expel members who do not conform to the
Code and associated legislation. Part of the Code is that
"All members will ensure that all staff
are aware of and comply with... relevant legislation and statutory
codes including provisions relating to equal opportunities".
In addition the REC has some 8,000 individual
members who work in agencies representing owners, directors, managers,
and consultants. The REC provides two qualifications, the Foundation
Vocational Award (endorsed by the Assessment and Qualifications
Alliance), and the Certificate in Recruitment and Practice run
in association with the AEB. On both courses good practice in
the avoidance of age discrimination is taught.
Recently Margaret Hodge MP, Minister for Employment
and Equal Opportunities made the first Age Diversity in Recruitment
Awards of Excellence to recruitment agencies. In addition the
REC works closely with the Third Age Employment Network and is
offering a joint award in some regions.
3. THE REC RESPONSE
In what ways and to what extent are older workers
treated less favourably than younger workers as a result of their
In an industry survey agencies believed that
some employers did discriminate on age some of the time. The examples
given were generalisations, such as employers believed that older
workers were more likely to have time off sick, and were reluctant
to be retrained. There is no evidence to support either view.
Some cited discrimination towards younger workers as employers
tried to mask age discrimination by stating that candidates over
40 were "too experienced" for their positions.
What benefits does promoting age diversity in
the workplace offer to employers and employees?
Promoting age diversity removes traditional
barriers to obtaining employment and opens up the job market for
the benefit of employers and job seekers alike. As the workforce
ages, and as traditional career paths change the job market should
be as flexible as possible to enable returners to work, career
changers, the unemployed etc to fully utilise their skills and
develop their potential.
The recruitment industry invests significant
time and money in re-skilling and upskilling its temporary workers
and believes that older workers are a valuable source of experience,
for which there should be no artificial barriers to finding employment.
In particular, educating employers re age discrimination
could help in easing skills shortages in such areas as IT work,
where IT employers have been reluctant to engage older workers.
In what circumstances (if any) is the use of age
as a criterion for the recruitment and retention of employees
There are only limited circumstances in which
the use of age as a criterion for recruitment and retention of
employees is justified. The most obvious being for health and
safety reasons. There may be valid reasons for limiting some job
opportunities to deny the very young or people of post statutory
retirement age from applying to some positions eg a lower age
limit where there is a lengthy training programme for positions
such as vets, doctors, pilots etc.
It might be appropriate to develop a "Genuine
Occupational Qualification" exemption in relation to age,
which would be similarly stringent as those that exist for race
and sex discrimination.
How effective is the Government's Code of Practice
in promoting age diversity in the workplace?
Wherever possible the REC believes in a voluntary
approach to solving problems in the workplace and in the employment
arena. Small businesses are already inundated and overwhelmed
by regulation. The CBI estimates that new employment rights since
1997 will have cost businesses some £12.3 billion to implement.
Whilst the REC believes that the Code is a valuable and much needed
source of guidance many employers had not heard of the Code, or
only had a vague idea as to its contents. A wider marketing and
distribution of the Code may go some way to resolving some of
In what ways do other Government policies such
as New Deal help or hinder older workers, especially unemployed
It was felt that the Government should set an
example by removing any age limits (either upper or lower) from
the New Deal initiative. Many felt that New Deal did enable older
workers to find employment but only at low pay rates, so their
years of experience were still not taken into account properly
in the job market.
From speaking to members dealing with all government
departments evidence suggests that there are often artificial
limits imposed for government initiatives. Especially access to
government funded training schemes, which seem to be aimed disproportionately
at the young. It is recommended that government departments review
all of their requirements for contracts, access to government
funding etc. Also there are age limits in some departments that
should be reviewed eg maximum of 70 for agency doctors.
Is there a case for anti-discrimination legislation,
and if so, what provisions should it include?
The REC strongly believes in a voluntary approach
to this issue. However if the Government were minded to simplify
the existing legislation and consolidate the various Acts relating
to discrimination in the field of employment, then the majority
of our members could support the inclusion of age discrimination
in such a consolidation.
As a very minimum it could make age as a criterion
for recruitment illegal (unless there is a GOQ), and ban age information
in advertisements, and on c.v.'s and application forms.
The REC as the trade association for the recruitment
industry is opposed to age discrimination, has developed a Code
of Conduct for its members, which opposed age discrimination and
works actively to promote good practice.
There are plenty of good examples in the recruitment
sector where employers' attitudes are challenged and there is
some evidence that a voluntary approach is working.
The REC would support age discrimination legislation
if there were sufficient evidence to show that it was necessary
and it was in the format of a consolidated Act on discrimination.
The REC would be delighted to give oral evidence
to the Committee if this was thought to be helpful.
Recruitment and Employment Confederation