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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
New ageism law comes into force
B&Q's oldest worker Sid Prior, 91, with colleague
Employees will have the right to ask to work beyond 65
New age discrimination laws have come into force in the UK in the biggest single change to employment practices in 30 years.

The new laws - the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 - are the result of a European directive on employment.

They make it unlawful to discriminate against workers under the age of 65 on the grounds of age.

The rules will affect recruitment, training, promotion, redundancy, retirement, pay and pension provision.

It's going to require quite a fundamental change in mindset
Jane Amphlett

Jane Amphlett, who specialises in employment law, told the BBC the changes would be far-reaching.

"I know that employment lawyers have a reputation for trying to whip up a bit of a storm and a bit of business out of any new legislation that comes in, but I think the key issue here is that it's going to cover anyone from application for a job right through to retirement and beyond," she said.

"It's going to require quite a fundamental change in mindset."

Under the new laws, workers will have the right to request that they work beyond age 65, while employers will have to give their staff six months notice of when they expect them to retire.

They will also have to treat all workers equally when it comes to training, regardless of age

Phrases in adverts seeking "enthusiastic young staff" or "mature individuals", for example, will be banned.

Recruitment schemes aimed at graduates will have to be changed, while sifting job applications by age must also end.

Employment tribunals

From now on anyone who feels they have suffered because of their age will be able to take a case to an employment tribunal, where the penalty will be an unlimited fine.

Some employers fear they will face many more tribunal cases.

A recent survey by the Employers Forum on Ageing found that 40% of employers in the UK think that once the new laws come in, age discrimination will be a feature of more than half of tribunal cases.

Despite the attention given to older people being forced out of the workforce, the laws will apply just as much to young people.

Dumping the youngest workers into the lowest paid jobs while they are allegedly "learning" could be challenged.

Not all of the government's plans are being implemented in one go.

It recently decided to postpone until the start of December the changes that will be required by pension funds.

There will now be a further period of consultation before new guidance is published and the pension element of the new laws comes into effect.

There could be some unintended consequences for other benefits offered by employers.

For instance those who offer benefits like health or life insurance up to a current retirement age of 60 may find they are now charged much more by insurance firms to cover their staff to 65.

"All employers who offer any protection benefits for their staff will have to make sure the schemes are written to 65 or they could end up denying benefits to older workers," says Peter Coussens, of financial advisers Kynaston-Carnoustie.


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