The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has issued new guidance, ‘Employing Older Workers’, aimed at helping employers make the most of this growing pool of workers. The guidance will be useful in helping employers prepare for the introduction of age discrimination legislation, due to come into force on 1 October 2006, which will make direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of age unlawful in the employment field (including vocational training), unless it can be objectively justified. It also gives practical advice, given that the working population as a whole is getting older and there will be a shortage of necessary skills unless older people are given recruitment and training opportunities.
The guidance splits the employment relationship into three phases:
- beginning the relationship – focusing on recruitment, induction and human resource planning;
- maintaining the relationship – looking at performance management systems and career planning as well as issues like flexible working and health and safety; and
- changing the relationship – concentrating on retirement and redundancy and the challenges faced by employees when they approach the end of their working life.
In a recent study of more than 2,500 managers and personnel professionals, carried out by the Chartered Management Institute and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 22 per cent of managers surveyed admitted that age considerations had affected their recruitment decisions.
Exactly how the new age discrimination laws will operate in practice should become clearer in the next few months. There are still many questions that need clarification. For example, given that the majority of students are in their early twenties when they finish their degrees, will recruitment fairs aimed solely at graduates become illegal under the new laws?