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Commission Promotes Age Discrimination Laws

Resource type: News

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland |

Commission Promotes Age Discrimination Laws The Equality Commission today (Monday 2 October) launched a campaign promoting new age discrimination laws which protect workers, job seekers and vocational trainees from discrimination because of their age. The launch in Equality House, Belfast was attended by Minister of State, David Hanson; Deputy Chief Commissioner, Anne O’Reilly; business leaders; employers; trade unions and community and voluntary groups. Chief Executive of the Commission, Evelyn Collins said: This is one of the most far-reaching pieces of employment legislation since the introduction of fair employment and sex discrimination laws in the 1970s. Six months ago we launched our programme of advice and assistance to employers with a major conference attended by over 150 people. We have taken a really practical approach and the response to this has been very positive. From today (2 October) our full range of advice and assistance services to individuals will be activated and we are anticipating that this important law will result in a significant number of enquiries from both individuals who feel they have been discriminated against and from employers seeking advice on their responsibilities. Minister of State, David Hanson said: The significance of the Age Regulations is huge. Unlike any other form of discrimination, ageism will affect us all at some stage of our lives. Ageism is not acceptable. Ageism is bad for individuals, it is bad for business, and it is bad for the economy. The Age Regulations give the Equality Commission new duties and responsibilities in relation to age which are unique within the United Kingdom. The Equality Commission will demonstrate the same level of commitment to working with employers on the new age legislation as it has done with the other equality grounds, he added. A recent survey carried out by the Commission found widespread public support for the introduction of new age laws, with 95 % saying that they believe that there should be protection from age discrimination. The Commission is the only body at present in the UK with full enforcement powers for the legislation. In recent weeks it has received a small, but significant, number of calls from individuals seeking advice on age issues in the workplace. The types of enquiry have focused on recruitment with particular concerns from people who feel they have not been short-listed or appointed for jobs because of their age and issues around redundancy. The Commission has also been working closely with employers and trade unions to raise awareness of the law through an extensive programme of training sessions, seminars and workshops. It has heard concerns similar to those expressed through individual enquiries about issues such as retirement, recruitment and the National Minimum Wage. In welcoming the laws the Commission today launched a radio and newspaper advertising campaign – LABELLING BY AGE ISN’T ON which calls on employers to know their duties and employees to know their rights. Evelyn Collins added: Often negative assumptions are not based on any objective fact. The relevant consideration for employers should be an individual’s ability, not age, when making complicated employment decisions. We have focused a lot in our work with employers on the need to consider language carefully in job descriptions, recruitment advertisements, in policies and the workplace to ensure that ill-founded perceptions are removed. This new law makes simple business sense. To treat staff differently on the grounds of age is to miss out the widest pool of potential labour. The market place is increasingly fragmented and employers can really benefit from the talents, skills, experience and ideas that an age-diverse workforce brings. And for individuals, the law brings increased protection from workplace discrimination – the positive impact of this cannot be underestimated. ENDS Note to editors: • The introduction of the Age Regulations is necessary in order to comply with the requirements of the EU Employment Directive (2000/78/EC). The final step in implementing this Directive is to bring forward legislation to prohibit age discrimination. The Regulations will be effective from 1 October 2006. • The Commission has statutory remit for the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006. It keeps under review, promotes equality of opportunity, provides advice and guidance and has enforcement powers in relation to: age discrimination,§ disability discrimination,§ equal pay,§ religious belief or political opinion discrimination,§ race§ discrimination, sex discrimination,§ sexual orientation§ discrimination, and the public sector equality duty (Section 75 of the§ Northern Ireland Act 1998), which includes the promotion of equality of opportunity between persons of different ages. • The Regulations prohibit unjustified direct and indirect age discrimination, and harassment and victimisation on grounds of age in employment and vocational training. They apply to individuals in work or seeking work or access to training, to all employers, and all providers of vocational training (including further and higher education institutions). • The Regulations set a default retirement age of 65. This will be reviewed in 2011. Compulsory retirements or retirement ages below the default retirement age will need to be objectively justified. • The Regulations include a number of exemptions for example, in relation to service related benefits and occupational pensions and provide for other differences of treatment if they can be objectively justified. They will allow length of service benefits which recognise and reward loyalty and experience and motivate staff to continue. They also provide exemptions to allow occupational pension schemes, which necessarily have age-based rules, to continue to operate effectively. • The law relates only to employment and vocational training (FE colleges) and not to the provision of goods, facilities and services, land and premises, or primary or secondary level education to the public. • The Commission is the only body with statutory remit for the Regulations in the UK. Anyone in Northern Ireland who feels they have been discriminated against on the grounds of age can seek advice and assistance from the Commission. In GB people must use a solicitor and take complaints directly to Tribunals. • There has been a legal duty on public authorities in Northern Ireland to promote equality of opportunity on grounds of age in all their activities since 1999 under Section 75 of the NI Act. • Age discrimination legislation came into force in the Republic of Ireland in 1998 and 11% of employment discrimination queries are received by the Equality Authority are on age issues. • For interviews please contact: Una O’Kane, Communications Officer Communications and Coordination Unit Equality Commission for Northern Ireland Tel: (028) 9089 0862 (DDI) Mobile: 07725 200417 Or Communications Unit (028) 90 500 666 or Ciaran Bradley 07715 476186

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