Come October 2006, discrimination on grounds of age will be illegal. And this will apply to job ads just as much as it will to how employees are treated at work.
As of 1 October 2006 age discrimination will be outlawed in the workplace. The new legislation is designed to protect people of all ages, from young, to old and everyone in between, covering all aspects of the employment relationship, from hire to fire (or retire!).
Key aspects of the age discrimination legislation is its' attempt to outlaw direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of age. Direct Discrimination is less favourable treatment on the grounds of age, for example, refusing to recruit someone because they are 'too old'. Indirect Discrimination prohibits the application of a provision, criterion or practice which has a disproportionate and disadvantageous impact on people of a certain age group, for example, rejecting all applications forms from applicants under the age of 30.
Before employers even get to the selection stage, the way in which vacancies are advertised may also fall foul of the new legislation. If an applicant doesn't get a job and can refer to an age biased job advertisement, it would be good evidence for any candidate that falls outside the age group that his/her rejection was tainted by discrimination.
Drafting the Ad
Gone will be the days when employers can insist on only hiring someone in their 20's who hasn't yet reached burn out. And, if an advertisement refers to, for example, 'applicants should be between 25-35' it will fall foul of the legislation.
Deletion of specific age references is easy to do. However, employers may get caught it is by using phrases which less obviously denote age. For example, 'young and dynamic individual sought' – young is clearly referring to people of a certain age. Or 'only people with GCSE Maths need apply' – what about all those potential applicants who have O Level Maths and therefore the requisite numerical abilities, they're potentially ruled out of applying.
Placing the Ad
Age Discrimination legislation is not just going to have an effect on what advertisements say, but where they're placed. Employers who delete references to age, but only place the advertisements on the internet, could be said to be indirectly discriminating against older people – research has shown that the number of 'older' people who use and have internet access is considerably less than younger people.
Therefore, advertisements should be placed where they will be seen by people of all ages – and not just, for example, university undergraduates. A wide variety of publications should be used, for example, local and national press and trade publications, as well as the internet and job centres.
A word of warning for those employers who use recruitment agencies – organisations will potentially be vicariously liable for age discrimination if agencies used have undertaken discriminatory acts on their behalf with either express or implied authority. Therefore, to extinguish liability, ensure that instructions to agencies are clear, in respect of advertisements, require final approval before ads go to press and check the agency's equal opportunities policy and general approach to age diversity.
So, to avoid claims for age discrimination where compensation is unlimited from people who have not even become employees, employers must start thinking about what they say in job advertisements where those advertisements are placed, and what their recruitment agencies are saying to you applicants. Failure to do so, could lead to premature ageing