PracticeAccounting FirmsHas the Age Discrimination Act worked?

Has the Age Discrimination Act worked?

Has the Age Discrimination Act achieved what it set out to do?

It’s now over a year since the age discrimination regulations have been in
place. But how much has improved and has the new law achieved its aims?

We know the key issues for the profession are attitudes to recruitment and
retirement. The Big Four in particular are known for their university ‘milk
round’ and ‘graduate recruitment’ drives, which have traditionally focussed
almost exclusively on recent university graduates. So it’s difficult for an
older graduate to break in.

At the other end of the career path, many accountants find themselves being
pushed out and forcibly retired in their fifties for no apparent reason other
than their age and the perceptions that go with it.

A quick review of the graduate recruitment (and indeed general recruitment)
pages of the Big Four shows that the focus is still very much on the young.

The faces are predominantly young and the profiles tend to be of people who
look under 30. The snapshot shows men and women of different races and
nationalities and people with disabilities but noticeably less focus on age
diversity.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that policies and procedures may have been
reviewed but the trickle-down effect into actual practice is slow.

This is no different from the other pieces of anti-discrimination
legislation, which all took time to bed down before employers realised that
systemic changes were needed in order to comply with the new laws.

It also takes a while for employees and job applicants to become aware of
their rights and have the confidence to take claims.

Statistics from the Employment Tribunal service show that 972 age
discrimination claims were taken in the first six months the law was in force.
That is a fraction of the sex, race and disability discrimination claims taken
but, interestingly, is higher than the number of claims taken for discrimination
on grounds of religion or belief (648) or sexual orientation (470) for the
entire year.

A key point is that you do not need to be in a minority or a group
traditionally discriminated against to bring a claim of age discrimination. For
the ‘pale, male and stale’ accountancy world this is a potential time-bomb.

There is no cap on compensation for age discrimination claims ­ good news for
high-earners who are being pushed out in favour of younger (and possibly
cheaper) blood.

We expect to see a significant rise in age claims in the coming year,
particularly in the areas of age-related recruitment and dismissal decisions,
retirement and certain age-related benefits.

Claire Dawson is a solicitor at Russell Jones &
Walker

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