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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 21:19 GMT
Birthday card could be 'ageist'
Birthday cards
The council said no ban was in place
A council has warned staff who send "ageist" birthday cards to colleagues that they could be breaking the law.

Workers at South Gloucestershire council have been told that age-related jokes could constitute discrimination or even harassment.

"Even sending a birthday card that says colleagues are 'over the hill and past it' could be taken as ageist behaviour," says a memo to staff.

The council said there was no general ban on sending cards.

It was simply reminding employees of new legislation, which came into effect last month, a spokesman said.

Are we going down the road where cards will just say 'Birthday' on the front of them?
Tory councillor Keith Craney

The memo, from personnel chief Paul Scrivener to 10,000 staff, continued: "This is not just a phase the council are going through, it's the law which means you will be liable for any comments or action you make or do that someone may find ageist and discriminatory.

"From Hip Hop to hip op, South Gloucestershire is an age diverse organisation."

Tory councillor Keith Craney said the council had lost its sense of humour.

"Are we going down the road where cards will just say Birthday on the front of them?, he said.

"Will Happy Birthday be the next thing you can't say?"

A spokesman said the authority was giving its employees some scenarios which could fall foul of the new law.

"The council has policies and procedures in place to deal with any form of discrimination.

"We also operate a fully comprehensive equalities policy.

"Any complaint about discrimination on grounds of age would be treated in accordance with these procedures and appropriate action taken."

Under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations, workers can sue their employers if they feel they have been harassed or victimised because of their age.

Watch Maurice Flynn's report


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