In two years' time, employees will be protected from being
forced to retire when they reach pension age – and the clock
is ticking for employers to review their rules and policies to cope
with the change.
Ogier employment lawyer Daniel Read says that employers need to
start thinking now about how to adapt now that the Discrimination
Law has started to cover age-related complaints (as of today) and
the two-year countdown to changes over retirement rules has
The extra two years have been given to allow employers time to
rewrite policies and review contracts in respect of retirement. At
present, employees can be effectively forced to retire when they
reach pension age without fear of unfair dismissal claims –
from 1 September 2018, employers will have to justify the need for
employees of any age to retire.
Daniel, who was promoted to senior associate in Ogier's
mid-year promotions at the start of this month, says that employers
who don't use the next two years to adapt to the changes could
be liable to compensation claims and significant PR damage if they
try to force out workers who do not want to retire.
He said: "The next two years will be an important time
– if employers do not review and reconsider handbooks,
policies and contracts, they could live to regret it.
"It might be that employees approaching pension age have to
change duties for health and safety reasons, or because of employee
performance, or because of career structuring or promotion
opportunities for colleagues.
"Policies and handbooks need to be reviewed with this
change in mind, along with the general anti-age discrimination
provisions that have now come into force."
As of today, the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal will be
able to make awards of up to £10,000 where complaints of age
discrimination or discrimination–related harassment are
From an employment law point of view, because the hearings and
judgments of the tribunal are public, companies also face negative
PR and an impact on their reputation as employers and ability to
recruit and retain staff if they are found to have discriminated
against their staff.
In most cases, companies could be held liable for discriminatory
acts by their employees – and in any case, where a
complainant names both a manager/colleague and their employing
company in their complaint, the tribunal will be able to split any
financial award as it chooses between the cited employee and the
The Ogier Employment Team's recommendations are to:
Amend (if required) employment
handbooks, including policies on equal opportunities and
harassment, setting out what constitutes acceptable behaviour and
what does not.
Review employment contracts and any
relevant policies to ensure they comply with the Law.
Provide training on equal
opportunities and harassment. This may help managers to avoid
inappropriate questions at interviews, or to recognise and deal
with harassment at an early stage.
Set up clear procedures for staff to
raise concerns and complaints, and for dealing with complaints.
Ensure discriminatory behaviour by staff is not tolerated and is
dealt with through proper disciplinary measures.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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