Legislation should be considered an optionOn 1 Sep 2000 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article It’s official: the government’s code of practice on ageism is not working –most employers do not even know it exists. So is legislation the only way toforce employers to take this issue seriously? We canvass some expert viewsClare MCevoy Human resources manager, CNN The age debate is a hot topic because of the demographic changes we arefacing. With fewer young people entering the workforce and with the massivecosts of pensions on the public purse, society needs to make sure that peopleneed to remain in employment longer and to do this, we need to think about thebarriers that exist. The question is why shouldn’t we help this process by protecting thiscategory against unfair discrimination, when there is some evidence that ageismoccurs in the workplace. If we are to take the issue seriously, as we have with other forms ofdiscrimination, we should consider legislation as an option. The outcome wouldbe to raise awareness of the issue and by doing so change behaviour. It wouldcontribute to shifting attitudes towards employing older people, supporting themessage that by encouraging diversity we can add value to the organisation orbusiness. In cases where awareness is not high, legislation would serve as a reminderof good practice. Employers, knowing that there would be a penalty attached toacting in a discriminatory would think twice before doing so. Those employers who train their staff in fair selection and who already putthe assessment of skills at the centre of the process, may not favour a movetowards legislation, because they would see it as unnecessary. However, in thistype of organisation, introducing legislation would not cause a huge amount ofadditional work. The downside of introducing legislation would be the initial increase in theamount of work – inevitable with any new kind of legislation: from re-visitingpolicies and procedures to re-writing employment contracts, as well as thetraining required for implementation. Legal advice would mean additional costs.However, these costs would be short-term. In the longer term, employers andsociety would see a big return to employers and society – in terms of the wayolder employees would be treated, retention of talent in the workforce forlonger and using the energy and wisdom of a category of resource which is toooften pensioned-off early, or not retrained into different areas of theorganisation. The next challenge for employers would be to make the working environment aplace where people would prefer to stay than to retire from. The Cabinet Office Some employers would prefer the clarity of legislation rather than feelingthey did not know where they stood with a voluntary code of practice andextensive guidance…age discrimination legislation would have a positiveeffect on British culture and would build on a growing sense of public interestand concern about the issue. The scale of the impact on employers’ behaviour ishard to measure and would depend on the model of legislation adopted. But theabsence of legislation on age when it exists for gender, race and disabilitysends a powerful message that age discrimination is taken less seriously.Kay Allen Head of diversity, B&Q Legislation would not enhance our policy on age or make us see the businesscase any differently. Would legislation strengthen the business case foremploying older workers or just burden employers? I was in favour of a code ofpractice to help spread the message on age. If forced to choose a side I wouldrather push for changes in retirement and pensions and other issues which wouldenable employers to develop flexible employment policies. I would advocateeducation rather than litigation. Good employers will reap the benefits veryquickly if they understand the business case.Kay Jarratt Development director, Employers’ Forum on AgeA majority of our members say they would like to put their own houses inorder. There is also quite a lot ofenthusiasm for legislation, but I doubt those people are the chief executivesbut those with an equal opportunities remit who need more wang to theirwellies. Our members would claim theyare working towards age diversity practices and that it’s the businessarguments that win. But we do need theGovernment to deploy more resources in getting the message out to decisionmakers. We welcome the new programmewhich will do much more.Marie Gill Head of colleague relations, Asda Stores We need legislation like a hole in the head. Yes, it would make ageismillegal but would it really make a difference? I doubt it. The problem as withother forms of diversity is generally with smaller organsiations. But there area lot of things that government and employers could do to change attitudes.Some of that is about visibility, about giving older people a higher profile inliterature and marketing campaigns and about celebrating age. The code ofpractice is helpful but we have to make sure more employers are using it asfully as they should be.