At Work: Human resources - It's the law

Emma Burrows, head of the employment group at Trowers & Hamlins solicitors

New age discrimination laws will have a significant impact on recruitment for charities.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into force on 1 October. They apply to all ages, so they protect both older and younger workers. The regulations touch upon almost every aspect of the employment relationship and require employers to look carefully at their policies and procedures.

The regulations will have a significant impact on the recruitment process.

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person in the terms upon which employment is offered, in the arrangements it makes for offering employment or by refusing to offer or deliberately not offering him employment, on the grounds of age. This means employers should no longer take into account an applicant's age during their recruitment process.

However, if an applicant is older than the normal retirement age, or will reach retirement within six months of their application, they are not protected by the regulations.

It is also contrary to the regulations to discriminate against candidates indirectly on the basis of their age by applying an apparently neutral condition, criterion or practice that has a disproportionate impact on candidates of a certain age. For example, employers should think about removing the question about date of birth from applications and consider whether dates are required for the 'previous experience' section.

Employers should also ensure recruitment materials are not designed in such a way as to appeal specifically to a certain age group to the disadvantage of another - Acas advises employers to avoid using terms such as 'mature', 'young' and 'energetic'.

Employers should think about making sure all stages of the recruitment process are carried out objectively and consistently to avoid any allegations of discrimination. Details such as replacing 'graduate' recruitment scheme with 'fast-track management' programmes should also be considered.

Instead, employers should consider introducing a monitoring system on age grounds and developing job descriptions using a competency-based approach.

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