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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Firm bans 'ageist' birthday cards
Birthday cards
The company decided to ban the cards after taking legal advice
Greetings cards passed around the office and signed for a colleague's birthday have been banned by a company in Bournemouth.

Alan and Thomas Ltd said they stopped the card signings, as jokes or comments about someone's age could be offensive under new age discrimination laws.

The firm's boss, Julian Boughton, said they had taken legal advice.

Directors of the Bournemouth-based insurance brokers will instead send a card on behalf of all staff.

I don't see how a jokey birthday card can be seen as discrimination
Former staff member

But speaking to BBC News, one former member of staff who did not wish to be named, said the move was "extreme".

They told BBC News: "I think it's a bit draconian really, over the top and quite ridiculous.

"I don't see how a jokey birthday card can be seen as discrimination or harassment. And I wonder if they actually asked the staff what they think."

Buying cakes

The company said legal advice was sought after the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force this month.

Mr Boughton, managing director, said: "Having considered the potential exposures for our employees and our business, we have taken the decision to change the practice of issuing a generically signed card for any given individual's birthday.

"Instead we have decided that the company will send a card to each staff member on their birthday, signed by the directors."

But not all birthday traditions have been banned.

Mr Boughton added: "We certainly still encourage the practice of buying cakes!"

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