Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

APPENDIX 14 (continued)

Memorandum from Employers Forum on Age (EFA)


Use people's talents to the full

  A diverse organisation has more opportunities to explore its full business potential. An organisation made up of diverse ages, and particularly mixed age teams, will have access to a wide range of abilities, experience and skills. Such an organisation is more likely to be alive to new ideas and different possibilities than one made up of a more homogeneous group in terms of background and experience.

Retain "Corporate Knowledge"

  Employees with extensive knowledge of an organisation will provide an invaluable resource in future business development—experienced employees know what works and what doesn't work, can prevent repetition of mistakes and "re-invention of the wheel."

  Two-thirds of senior managers say their organisation suffer a knowledge gap when people retire early.

    "Nationwide experienced a loss of corporate memory at the time of the merger with the Anglia in 1987. The subsequent recruitment of younger employees in large numbers and increasing turnover in some areas of the business prompted Nationwide to take positive action to bring back the stability brought about by mixed age teams. Our past experience has taught us that we need to retain our most skilled knowledegable employees to remain competitive."

    Denise Walker, Head of Corporate Personnel, Nationwide Building Society

Get closer to customers and understand their needs

  Business managers need accurate and unbiased information about existing and potential customers. An age diverse workforce—reflecting an age diverse customer base—can deliver more successful marketing and service delivery strategies.

Develop New Markets with success

  Organisations which attract a diverse workforce and are alert to their skills, talents and experience are in an excellent position to identify, reach out and develop new markets.

Make the company more attractive to investors

  Increasingly investors now judge corporate performance by less traditional measures such as social and environmental responsibility and consideration of stakeholders (including employees). Being a good employer—providing both training opportunities and equality of opportunity for all, now generates interest from investors.

  EFA research reveals that those organisations which take age out of their early departure strategies enjoy an enhanced corporate image and reputation.

Make the company more attractive to customers and clients

  A poor reputation as an employer also acts a disincentive to customers. Customers and clients are increasingly likely to prefer dealing with a company which not only practices fair employment policies but also ensures that its suppliers and contractors have fair employment practises.

Benefit from a better business environment

  Equal opportunity, particularly the inclusion of all ages in wider employment and business strategies (particularly given current demographic change) contributes to a more stable society (and market for goods and services) with the potential for strong economic growth.


Avoid the costs of discrimination

  Discrimination can be expensive in terms of money, lost opportunities, staff morale and business reputation. By 2006 employees will be able to make claims on the basis of unfair age discrimination. In addition to financial costs, such cases bring further negative effects such as:

    —  Adverse publicity

    —  Higher Absenteeism

    —  Damage to Staff Development

    —  Greater Staff Turnover


  Government and employers now have less than six years in which to shape and prepare for age discrimination legislation. But while legislation has a role to play in challenging age prejudice and stereotypes, on its own it is not enough to tackle age discrimination.

  It will be making a clear "business case for age diversity" which will have the greatest impact on employers. By demonstrating to employers that basing employment decisions on the grounds of ability NOT age, and employing an age diverse workforce, employers:

    —  create a more efficient workforce:

    —  reduce unnecessary business costs:

    —  improve corporate image and market awareness

  There continues to be an urgent need for more costed evidence of the benefits of age diversity. Throughout 2001, EFA will continue investigating and presenting evidence, and promoting the benefits our members have found in their mixed age workforces.

  The EFA has developed a series of induction workshops designed to introduce members and non-members to age issues and to the above age diversity benefits. We would be happy to feedback on employer responses to the issues through oral evidence.


  EFA recommends that major promotion of the business case for age diversity is critical to addressing issues around age discrimination.

  Any age discrimination laws will only truly be effective if employers are convinced first by the business arguments.

C.  In what circumstances (if any) is the use of age as a criterion for the recruitment and retention of employees justified?

  While the EFA campaigns to ensure recognition that an individuals ability to do a job is the primary consideration, we recognise that there are circumstances where even direct age discrimination may be seen to be justifiable.

  We list below examples of some of the circumstances in which it may be argued that direct discrimination on the grounds of age should not necessarily be unlawful but may be justified. These circumstances have been considered in the EU directive upon which UK law will be based.

  The EFA have begun to debate these issues in a series of seminars with member employers.

i.  In protecting younger or older workers

  Laws already exist to outlaw the employment of people below a certain age. Indeed, without this exception in UK age discrimination laws, any law would be inconsistent with the Young Workers' Directive and the UK may face claims from children excluded from employment opportunities for age discrimination.

ii.  To promote vocational integration

  Possibility contentious, but there may be circumstances in which some would argue that age discrimination was legitimate. For example, employers seeking an age-diverse workforce might specifically seek employees of an age group under-represented within the workforce. This may however be addressed through legitimate positive action.

iii.  The need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement

  This is a particularly difficult issue, and perhaps only relevant where mandatory retirement remains lawful. It is not difficult to see the argument that if an employer had a mandatory retirement age of, say, 65 and a candidate who was 64 years and six months old applied for a position, it would be legitimate to turn them down on the basis that there was only six months before their retirement.

  However, based on the research that shows that older workers closer to retirement are likely to remain in employment longer than younger workers who are likely to remain for a shorter period before exploiting the training that they have been given and moving to a competitor, great care should be taken with such an exception. The dangers of such an exception can be seen from an early sex discrimination employment tribunal case, where an age limit of 32 for appointments in the Diplomatic Service (which indirectly discriminated against women) was held to be justifiable as the Tribunal accepted the employer's arguments that it took 25/30 years to reach senior position in the services and there was a mandatory retirement age of 60 (Leavers v Civil Service Commission (1986)).

iv.  Age as proxy for performance.

  In other jurisdictions, cases relating to the justification of age discrimination have often involved arguments that age represents a fair proxy for performance in some jobs and, as such, is a "bona fide occupational qualification". The argument would proceed that, in a minority of cases, it can be established that there is a reasonably close correlation between age and the particular skills or levels of fitness needed for a particular post. The argument would continue that it is legitimate for the employer to rely on this correlation rather than testing, possibly at great expense, each and every employee for performance or fitness. Cases on this issue in North America have often involved jobs such as fire-fighters, air traffic controllers, airline pilots and police.

v.  Bona fide seniority plans.

  In this case, the argument goes that employers need to engage in staff planning. If, say, an employer employs five accounts clerks all of whom are in their mid to late 50s then it is argued that it would be legitimate to prefer a younger candidate for a vacancy since the existing staff are likely to be retiring within a relatively short space of time. It is claimed that it would be undesirable to find oneself needing to recruit an entire group of workers at one time or to find oneself without experienced workers to train new recruits.


  There are clearly contentious issues around developing exceptions and provision in age discrimination law. Age can sometimes impact on the ability to do a job. We can therefore expect considerable debate as age discrimination laws are developed for the UK.

  Clearly UK employers must be involved in such a debate as they are familiar with effectively managing a workforce and with the criteria required for different jobs of work.


  EFA recommends that employers are closely involved in developing age discrimination laws to ensure they are clear, relevant and workable.

D.  How effective is the Government's code of practice in promoting age diversity in the workplace?

  Launched in June 1999, the voluntary Code of Practice for Age Diversity in Employment sets out a series of principles for tackling age discrimination and promoting age diversity in the workplace. The Employers Forum on Age was involved in the development of the Code which aims to help employers, employees and applicants by setting a standard for employment practice. We welcomed its launch as a positive step forward in promoting age diversity.

  Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of EFA members are using the Code of Practice on Age Diversity[13].

    "The Code of Practice is an important reminder for employers of the need to recognise and actively promote the benefits of a mixed age workforce."

    John Nicholson, Head of Diversity and Equal Opportunities, HM Land Registry

  Given the purpose of the Code is to change employer practice, awareness levels amongst employers and its impact on employment practice is critical to its success.

  EFA research reveals disappointing results on the Code's impact and we look forward to comparing our research with the Government's own two year evaluation programme.

i.  Awareness Levels

  Since its inception the EFA has stressed that the Government must ensure the Code had a high profile, with a sustained communications and marketing campaign in order to impact on employers. This was particularly important given the "voluntary nature" of the Code, that is, that employers were free to embrace or ignore it's recommendations.

  The EFA have monitored awareness levels through survey of employers. We have also conducted a survey of a business sector and a geographical region.

(a)  Nation-wide Survey of Employers—1999[14]

  The research of 100 small and medium sized businesses showed that:

    —  Only one in four employers were aware of the existence of a Code on ageism

    —  Of these only four in 100 say that they are "fully aware" of the Code

    —  63 per cent had no intention of changing the way their business operates regarding ageism at work

  Even among those who were aware of the Code, there was widespread misunderstanding of what it was about:

    —  50 per cent thought the Code was about banning age limits in job advertisements

    —  42 per cent thought it implied a legal requirement to ban age discrimination

    —  Over 5 per cent thought that it was about "fast tracking for younger staff or mandatory quotas of older workers

    —  A third simply didn't know what the Code is about

(b)  Geographical Survey—West Midlands (EFA and Age Concern Birmingham)—2000[15]

    —  Only 13 per cent of employers were fully aware of the Code

    —  Nearly a quarter of respondents were either not sure or not very aware of the Code

    —  40 per cent thought that the Code was about banning age limits in job ads

    —  39 per cent thought it involved a legal requirement to ban age discrimination

    —  19 per cent thought it included establishing quotas for older staff

(c)  Sector Survey—IT Sector (EFA and Silicon.Com) 2000[16]

  In a survey of 1,400 IT professionals almost three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) were unaware of the Voluntary Code of Practice for Age Diversity.

  Further CBI and other surveys have produced comparable results.

  The result of the three surveys reveal a disappointing level of awareness, confusion over what the Code is about and whether it is legally binding.

ii.  Impact on Employment Policy

  Survey findings also reveal low impact on employment policy. Indeed recently a CBI Employment Trends publication revealed that while "50 percent of employers they surveyed were aware of the Code, only 9 per cent were using it.[17]

(a)  Geographical Survey—West Midlands (EFA and Age Concern Birmingham)—200015

    —  55 per cent said that the introduction of the Code of Practice would not change the way they ran their business (only 3 per cent said it would)

    —  17 per cent said only legislation would make them change practice—despite the fact that many admit to increasing business costs due to staff turnover and difficulties in recruitment.

  These findings are consistent with other surveys and demonstrate that the Code has had little impact on business.


  The EFA believes the Code has been limited in its effectiveness because it is:

    —  Voluntary—with no legal redress

    —  Too older worker focused

    —  Insufficiently promoted

    —  Not communicating a strong business case for age diversity

  Survey results indicate much more work needs to be done on promoting the Code of Practice. Our experience would suggest that stimulating employer interest in the Code and in translating awareness into action will require greater promotion not only of the business benefits but of changing demographics. The failure of the Code of Practice and its publicity campaigns to effectively link changing demographics with day to day issues such as skills shortages and retention problems is a major contributor to its low impact on employers.

  In the West Midlands survey the findings demonstrate that while employers recognise we have an ageing population—few understand the impact that changing demographics will have on the workplace.

  Employers clearly understand that the UK population is ageing:

    —  28 per cent accurately predicted 40 per cent of the population would be over 45 in 2010.

  But there is little evidence of their understanding the impact this will have on their business:

    —  42 per cent do not think that changing demographics will impact on their business in any way

    —  while 34 per cent recognise that an ageing population will impact on retirement, only 20 per cent think recruitment will be affected.

  The DfEE themselves (including equal opportunities minister Margaret Hodge MP) have publicly acknowledged their concern as to the low levels of awareness of the Code. An indicator of this concern is the investment of £50,000 in the EFA/Age Concern Training pilot SME awareness training programme which is currently underway[18].

  Feedback from EFA's Induction workshops also demonstrates that the Code has failed to greatly enhance awareness of age diversity.

  The findings of an EFA straw poll[19]following the launch of the Code disappointed those who saw the Code as a viable alternative to legislation.

  The EFA would also suggest promotion of the Code has failed to ignite employer interest because it has focused too much on older workers. Members of the EFA continue to emphasise that age discrimination affects all employees at all ages, and that age diversity is the key issue of interest. Focusing at one end of the spectrum is not an approach that will inspire UK employers generally.

  As we have mentioned earlier the definition of "older" or "younger" worker is fluid according to which industry or individual workplace culture you are looking at. Linking promotion of the Code with findings from sector surveys will bring home key messages—the surprising age levels at which discrimination can commence can serve to shock and inform both individual and employers on this issue. The EFA IT Survey 2000 is a good example, this survey found a significant proportion (9 per cent) of IT professionals think that the term "older worker" can be applied to someone 35 years old or younger (although the majority think that it begins to apply at age 35)[20].

  In summing up, the Employers Forum on Age believe that the Code of Practice is a key and useful document. The experience gained in creating and promoting the Code will be invaluable to the effective introduction of age discrimination laws by 2006.

  Promotion and evaluation of the Code, the collation of new good practice and associated documents will assist the Government and employers, campaigners and Government as they work together to shape effective and workable legislation.


  The EFA recommends further resources are put into promoting the Code as a way of preparing UK employers for age legislation.

  Successful promotion will depend a continued high profile communications strategy linking demographics with the business case for age diversity. Forthcoming legislation should also make employers more responsive.

E.  In what ways do other Government policies such as the new deal help or hinder older workers, especially unemployed job seekers?

  The EFA welcomed the launch of New Deal 50+ as significant because it marked the first Government-backed programme specifically supporting older people's opportunities for training and work.

  The fact that there is no cut-off at age 65 is positive in that it recognises the right of those over the existing retirement age to take up new opportunities.

  New Deal 50+ may be viewed as a valuable vehicle for culture change because the investment in over 50's sends a clear message to both employers and participating individuals—that over 50 year olds are both able to work and need to work. As skills shortages bite, this scheme promotes older workers as a valuable resource to employers. The success and contribution of those placed with new employers through this programme will significantly contribute to making the business case for employing older workers.

  The EFA also welcome the creation of a pool labour for employers seeking to source experienced and mature employees.

  In practice however, New Deal 50+ fails to address the huge increase in economic inactivity rates, particularly those for older men because it does not cover those people currently classed as economically inactive and not on any form of benefit (some 1.5 million people). Nor does it provide, in the event of the job or new business folding, as assurance of a return to the previous level of benefits. These factors may be a disincentive to individuals. Furthermore, people who have been made redundant or have only just registered for benefits have to wait six months before qualifying.

  A criticism however is that the structure of the whole New Deal scheme, in so much as it draws arbitrary distinctions between the employment needs of different age groups, itself contributes to a culture of age discrimination.

    "It's good that new schemes have been introduced to assist older workers, but we believe the Government would benefit from stepping up its campaign to raise the profile of the business benefits of recruiting and retaining older workers."

    Denise Walker, Head of Corporate Personnel, Nationwide Building Society


  The EFA recommends incorporating the business benefits of age diversity into the promotion of New Deal Schemes.

F.  Is there a case for anti-discrimination legislation, and if so, what provisions should it include?

  It is usually argued that bringing about true culture change requires legislation. The answer however is rarely so simple. Both Sex Discrimination and Racial Discrimination laws have arguably had limited cultural impact decades after implementation.

    —  Recent Government figures reveal that 25 years on from the introduction of equality legislation, few employers have policies which actively seek to close the gender pay gap (currently 18 per cent).

    —  Labour Force Survey figures reveal that 30 years after the Race Relations Act was passed and despite economic growth, 27 per cent of black men are unemployed compared to less than 6 per cent of their counterparts.

    —  Four years on from its enactment, the Disability Discrimination Act has had only marginal impact on recruitment.

  Experience from overseas also suggests age discrimination legislation is patchy in effectiveness. Though the jury is still out on the recently introduced age discrimination in employment legislation in Australia, New Zealand and Eire, in the US which has had legislation since 1967, there is still little conclusive proof of its effectiveness.

  The EFA's employer members have always held mixed views on legislation. In the past half our members supported legislation (partly because it provided the opportunity to ensure age diversity policies were given proper recognition internally), other members, however, viewed formal law as unnecessary.

  One positive impact of legislation might mean "age discrimination" is recognised as an issue. It would ensure age discrimination is awarded its rightful place alongside gender, race and disability and that those who suffer such discrimination have equal right to redress.

  Following ratification of a recent EU Directive the debate over whether to legislate or not is no longer relevant. The UK is now obliged to introduce anti-age discrimination laws by 2006 which comply with Council Directive 2000/78/EC ("the Directive").


  To some extent debate over the provisions of UK law is redundant. UK anti-age discrimination laws must be consistent with the UK's obligation under the Directive. UK law must, therefore, follow the model established under the Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act set out in the Directive.

  UK law must outlaw four types of age discrimination, namely discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

(a)  Direct discrimination

  That is discrimination which occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another on the grounds of their age (ie but for being of a particular age they would not have been subjected to the detriment to which they had been subjected).

(b)  Indirect discrimination

  This is discrimination which occurs where "an apparently age-neutral provision, criterion or practice puts persons of a particular age at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons not of that age" (ie has a disproportionate disadvantageous affect on people of a particular age).

(c)  Harassment and victimisation

  These latter two forms of discrimination, namely harassment and victimisation require little comment. These laws will follow the framework with which we are already familiar in the fields of race, sex and disability discrimination.


  The key issue for the UK Government will be the circumstances in which it will allow age discrimination to be lawful. These can be roughly divided into four key areas:

    —  mandatory retirement ages

    —  genuine occupational requirements

    —  justification of direct discrimination

    —  justification of indirect discrimination

  The EFA will be engaging in a wide-ranging consultation exercise with its members regarding their views on these issues.

1.1  Mandatory retirement ages

  In theory, mandatory retirement could effectively become illegal. This would have significant impact on employers.

  The Government is under no legal obligation to either include or exclude mandatory retirement from domestic laws and could consider allowing employers to set their own mandatory retirement ages (retirement at which will not amount to age discrimination). The Government would also be able to consider setting its own rules, for example, that mandatory retirement at 65 would not be unlawful.

  There are cogent arguments both for and against excluded mandatory retirement from age discrimination laws.


  There are strong social and economic policy reasons for encouraging workers to work longer. It is also the case that many individuals who have passed their normal retirement ages are perfectly able to fulfil their duties and responsibilities and that there is no rational reason for enabling an employer to exclude them arbitrarily from employment.


  However, it may also be argued that mandatory retirement enables employers to manage a flow of new employees into the workforce effectively in a predictable manner to allow them to manage recruitment and staffing levels.

  Without mandatory retirement ages, employers would need to rely on poor performance as a reason for dismissing workers who were finding the responsibilities of their post difficult to fulfil as they approached traditional retirement ages. This would put pressure on many older workers unnecessarily. It is argued that in many cases these employees would otherwise be allowed to work through to their mandatory retirement.

  It should be borne in mind that mandatory retirement ages in the UK workforce are often linked to State pension ages. These were fixed many decades ago and the improved health, working conditions and diet of today's workforce mean that workers are likely to remain fit and healthy to a far older age.

1.2  Genuine occupational requirements

  Provisions might also need to consider where age constitutes a "genuine and determining occupational requirement" which is legitimate and proportionate. In such cases discrimination should not be unlawful.

  The UK Government will have the choice between:

    (a)  merely providing an exemption where age constitutes a "genuine occupational requirement" without setting out a list of cases which constitute occupational requirements; or

    (b)  (as is the case in the Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act) setting out an exhaustive list of circumstances where age can constitute a genuine occupational requirement.

  Example: One obvious circumstances where age would constitute a genuine occupational requirement would be selecting an actor to play a character of a particular age. It would clearly be legitimate to require that such actor be of a similar age to the character whom he or she was portraying. In the Race Relations Act it is legitimate to seek candidates from a particular racial group where "the holder of the job provides persons of that racial group with personal services promoting their welfare, and those services can most effectively be provided by a person of that racial group." It may be argued that there are circumstances where personal services are being provided to a particular age group where it might be, arguably, legitimate to require an employee of that particular age group. An example might be that it would be legitimate to require a youth worker providing services to teenagers to be within a particular age group. However, on the contrary, it might also be argued that employers should seek the best employee and that an older worker is no less able to empathise with and obtain the confidence of teenagers than a younger worker closer to their age.

1.3  Justification of direct discrimination

  Under the UK's sex and race discrimination laws direct discrimination can never be justified. However, Governments are entitled to provide that direct age discrimination may be lawful where the difference of treatment is objectively and reasonably justified.

  In drafting domestic laws the UK Government must consider:

    (a)  providing that direct age discrimination can never be justified:

    (b)  setting out an exhaustive list of circumstances in which age discrimination laws may be justified; or

    (c)  providing that direct age discrimination can be lawful if objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate business objective.

  As with other similar types of legislation, the Government could set out detailed Guidance on when direct age discrimination may be lawful if it chooses option (b) or (c) above.

  However, whichever provisions are enacted employees will want a degree of certainty and to know what they can and cannot do.

1.4  Justification of Indirect Discrimination

  UK law must also include provision for indirect age discrimination where such discrimination would be lawful when it can be objectively justified by legitimate business aim.

  It is unlikely that UK domestic age discrimination laws would go any further than the provisions within the Directive. The Government may wish to provide Guidance on when indirect discrimination can be justified in this way.

  Such guidance would have to cover both provisions, criterion and practices which disproportionately disadvantage younger workers as well as those which disadvantage older workers for example the issue of experience.

  For example, if an employer requires candidates to have at least five years experience in a particular field this criterion is likely to "disproportionately disadvantage" younger workers who are less likely to have been in a position to acquire such experience. Employers may then find themselves being challenged to justify experience requirements for jobs.

  Requirements for professional experience or seniority in service for job candidates is specifically anticipated by Article 6(I)(b) of the Directive.

  An example of a criterion which might disproportionately disadvantage older workers would be a requirement for a candidate to be, say, "a recent graduate". An employer may seek to justify such a requirement by saying that it required employees that who were up to date on current thinking in a particular discipline. On the other hand, it might be argued that, in such circumstances, the employer themselves should be assessing how up to date the particular candidate is and not relying on potentially discriminatory requirements such as this.


  Those familiar with indirect sex and race discrimination claims will be used to employees of a particular group comparing the effects of a requirement or condition on workers in that group compared to those outside of it. Age Discrimination is more complicated in that it is not possible to ascribe individuals to particular "groups". There is no accepted line between "older" and "younger" workers. The definition in Article 2(b) of the Directive refers to persons of "a particular age".

  But guidance will be needed as to relevant "groups" or "pools".


  The Government would need an audit of existing employment laws to ensure that any which discriminated on the grounds of age were brought into line with the Directive. The most obvious example which comes to mind is the payment of larger statutory redundancy payments to older workers than to younger workers.


  The provisions of UK age laws will no doubt create intense debate. We can anticipate considerable argument over exclusions that may be viewed by some as legitimising age discrimination, and by others as the only way to make age law workable.

  The EFA will contribute to this debate through extensive consultation with members on the different provisions.

  However, we would wish to reiterate that age discrimination laws will fail to address age discrimination in employment unless they are clear and user friendly to employers. Given the relative complexity of age issues, comprehensive guidance on what employers can and cannot do, will be critical.

  Age discrimination laws and guidance must also be accompanied by widespread promotion of the business benefits of age diversity and the UK's changing demographics.

    Legislation will be welcome if it can raise employers' awareness of the business benefits of a mixed age workforce for organisations of different sizes.

    Denise Walker, Head of Corporate Personnel, Nationwide.

  Some consideration must also be given to Government plans to support UK age laws through the introduction of a Commission/organisation to monitor its effectiveness.


  The EFA recommends ongoing promotion of the business case for age diversity, public debate on changing demographics and widespread consultation with employers on creating workable law in the run up to the introduction of legislation.

  Promotion of the business case for age diversity, case studies of good practice and public debate on changing demographics will also need to continue well after UK age laws are introduced.


  The Employers Forum on Age is well placed to submit evidence to this inquiry on the basis of the combined experiences of 170 employers who are working to address age discrimination and promote age diversity, together with the extensive research we have conducted into age and employment issues.

  Members of the Employers Forum on Age welcome the Employment Sub-Committee's Inquiry into Age Discrimination in Employment and the interest that parliamentarians are now taking in this important issue.

  Age Discrimination in employment clearly exists. However, it will only be accepted as a major business issue if it is recognised that age discrimination can affect anybody, at any age and at any stage of the employment cycle.

  Action to address age discrimination will only be effective if:

    —  Employers are convinced by the business arguments.

    —  Employers are involved in the development of age discrimination laws to ensure that they are clear, relevant and workable.

    —  There is high profile communications strategy which links the Voluntary Code of Practice with changing demographics, the Business Case for Age Diversity, UK age laws and employer guidance implementing age diversity.

  The Employers Forum on Age have developed three key messages which, if accepted, will help ensure age discrimination in employment is addressed.

1.  Only the business case for age diversity will convince employers to address age discrimination in employment

  Ageist attitudes and culture among UK employers will only be challenged if they are presented with a very strong business case for age diversity. A culture of minimum compliance should be avoided.

2.  Individuals and employers have equal responsibility for neutralising age in employment

  While Government and employers are key players in creating a framework for and facilitating positive culture change in employment practice, individuals, who themselves contribute to the stereotypes of age, also have a role to play. They have a responsibility to maintain their employability and reverse the early retirement culture which has grown up within the public and private sectors.

3.  Government must translate its commitment to age diversity from words into action

  Finally none of these major shifts in attitude will take place if the Government, as the foremost employer in the UK, is not more visibly seen to translate their commitment to age diversity into action by: setting the standard; sending the right messages; providing employers and employees with incentives and guidance; and changing current rules on eg flexible retirement, unfair dismissal.

  Members of the Employers Forum on Age will be delighted to submit oral evidence on specific issues and share their experiences with the Committee.


  1.  The members of the Employers Forum on Age recommend that the Select Committee Inquiry takes account of the three key messages of this submission, namely:

    —  Only the business case for age diversity will convince employers to address age discrimination in employment.

    —  Individuals and employers have equal responsibility for neutralising age in employment.

    —  Government must translate its commitment to age diversity from words into action

  The members of the Employers Forum on Age would like to recommend the following individuals to submit oral evidence to the Select Committee:

  Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Employers Forum on Age, has shown his unwavering commitment to age diversity issues since the launch of the EFA in 1996.

  As Chairman of the Financial Services Authority and previously Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and Director General of the Confederation for British Industry, Howard Davies is ideally placed to speak on behalf of EFA members.

  James Davies is a Partner in Lewis Silkin's Employment Department. James's particular interests are in discrimination law, European employment law and Transfer of Undertakings. James writes regularly on employment matters in the national, legal and personnel press, and also for the Employers Forum on Age. He speaks regularly on the subject and sits on editorial boards of a number of employment law publications.

  Denise Walker is Chair of the Employers forum on Age Membership Advisory Group and Head of Corporate Personnel at Nationwide Building Society, Denise is accountable for developing the employment environment in Nationwide including strategies for employment contracts, organisation design, pay and benefits (including pension provision), health and safety, equal opportunities and leading negotiations with the Nationwide Group Staff Union. Her approach is based on flexibility. She aims to increase choice for employees across the Society which she believes will help the business meet the needs of its' members. Nationwide Building Society were the winners of the DfEE sponsored Personnel Today Award for Age Diversity.

  Keith Faulkner sits on the Employers forum on Age Leadership Group and is Company Secretary of Manpower PLC and Director of Public Affairs. His responsibilities include Manpower's links with professional bodies, the trade unions and Government departments and working with major client organisations on development of HR strategies.

  Ray Baker is Employee Relations Controller of B&Q. He is responsible for the innovative policies that B&Q are famous for and also for their ongoing development. B&Q are the most famous employer in the UK vis a" vis older workers and have contributed greatly to the age and employment debate.

  Keith Handley is Director of Change Management for the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council. He is currently a vice-president of SOCPO. He chaired METRA's Older Workers Campaign Group "Age No Barrier" and has been involved in a number of high profile national age awareness campaigns over the past few years. Keith is a member of the EFA's Members Advisory Group and regularly speaks on age discrimination issues.

  Richard Worlsey is the author of the seminal work Age in Employment (1996) and has led the Carnegie Third Age Enquiry for many years. He is a recognised expert in this field.

  The secretariat of the Employers Forum on Age will be happy to assist and offer guidance to the Inquiry in any way possible.

Employers Forum on Age

January 2001

13   EFA Membership Survey 2000. Back

14   Employers' Awareness of the Code of Practice, EFA 1999 Back

15   Regional Survey, EFA/Age Concern Birmingham, 2000. Back

16   Ageism in the IT sector, EFA./ 2000. Back

17   CBI Employment Trends Survey 2000. Back

18   Promoting Age Diversity in SME's, EFA/ACT/DfEE. Back

19   Employer Awareness of the Code of Practice, EFA 1999. Back

20   Ageism and IT, EFA/, 2000. Back

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