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Age discrimination laws to cost UK construction 'substantial amounts of money', warn lawyers

New laws coming into force in October could hit construction firms financially, lawyers warned yesterday.
Age discrimination will become unlawful on October 1 when the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 come into force. Dawsons Solicitors employment partner Richard Linskell said: 'This will be one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of UK employment law. It could cost UK businesses substantial amounts of money if they are found to be discriminating against employees on the grounds of age.'While laws prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex (Sexual Discrimination Act 1975) and race (Race Relations Act 1976) were introduced over 30 years ago, this will be the first time that employees will be protected from discrimination on the grounds of their age.Linskell said that businesses need to be fully aware of the implications of the new law as it will affect everybody from the teenage school leaver to chief executives in their 60s. 'In the United States, only people over the age of 40 can bring a claim of age discrimination against their employer,' he added.'The new UK laws protect both the young and the old.'Checklist for employers1.A national default retirement age of 65 will be introduced, making compulsory retirement below 65 unlawful in most cases.2.All employees will have the right to ask to work beyond 65 or any other retirement age set by the company and all employers will be obliged to consider such requests. 3.Companies will no longer be allowed to advertise for 'young' or 'mature' candidates unless they can objectively justify it. Even looking for 'recent graduates' or 'dynamic' individuals may be discriminatory. Companies are likely to face claims from unsuccessful candidates who have been rejected for age-related reasons.4.Employers will need to review their pay and benefits systems to ensure that they are not discriminating. A pay scale that relates to length of service might be unlawful, as could granting additional paid holiday.5.The Regulations introduce a procedure that must be followed in advance of retirement by all employers, however large or small. Failing to follow the statutory retirement procedure will lead to an automatically unfair dismissal.6.Employers should ensure that any enhanced severance or redundancy schemes comply with the new law.

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