UK targets age discrimination

Acas, Britain’s leading employment relations organisation, is warning hospitality employers not to ignore the new age discrimination challenge following new legislation which came into force on 1st October 2006. The Acas ‘Time’s up for age discrimination’ campaign aims to raise awareness with employers and the public focusing on priority sectors like the hospitality industry.

The new regulations mean that it is now unlawful for employers in hospitality to discriminate against workers because of their age.  It is vital that these businesses understand the impact of the new legislation and start to realise the business benefits of being age positive.

Many common practices in hospitality will need to be reviewed urgently to ensure that businesses do not break the new regulations.  For example:

Using length of experience in recruitment. This affects two thirds of all employers, however, hospitality employers are less likely than others to use age-based selection when recruiting staff.  Staff are also more likely to be paid the same rates, which reduces the risk of flouting the law

Providing age information to shortlist and interview staff.  There are legitimate reasons why employers would want dates of birth from job applicants (for example, to monitor equal opportunities), but passing this information to staff who are responsible for interviewing increases the risk of age discrimination in recruitment


Using length of service or ‘last in first out’ as the basis for redundancy decisions. This is indirectly discriminatory since it is likely to disadvantage younger workers

Acas Chair Rita Donaghy said: “Many of the standard business practices in the hospitality sector flout the new law but still many organisations believe these regulations will not affect them.

“DTI anticipates that there may be 8,000 age discrimination cases brought to UK tribunals in the first year, so employers can’t afford to go sleepwalking into this. Acas’ prime concern is to prevent the need for such cases by helping bosses to get it right in the first place.”

Around £700 million is wasted each year by employers who make age-based assumptions about staff, as a result they ignore potential, abilities and experience. Employers increasingly need to recognise the benefits of age diversity in the workplace.

Using more than 30 years expertise in good employment practice, Acas offers free, impartial advice as well as a programme of training events throughout Britain to help businesses understand what age discrimination is and how it may affect them.  Businesses can call the helpline or download the Acas’ guide for employers ‘Age and the Workplace’ from

The employer guidance covers the key issues, including training, equal opportunities, recruitment, promotion, performance appraisals, sickness pay, conditions, benefits, redundancy, pensions and retirement. It will help employers to recognise that being age positive is a business advantage, not just a legal requirement.