Retirement laws needed to stem tide of tribunals

first_imgRetirement laws needed to stem tide of tribunalsOn 3 Dec 2002 in Personnel Today TheGovernment would be wise to speed up the introduction of age discriminationlegislation to put an end to the uncertainty TheGovernment would be wise to speed up the introduction of age discriminationlegislation to remove uncertainty and reduce the ever-growing number oftribunals.Itcomes as no surprise that the recent employment tribunal ruling allowingemployees over the age of 65 to bring claims for unfair dismissal and statutoryredundancy is to be appealed.TheGovernment clearly believes that, despite what the Labour Force Statisticssuggest, the upper age limit for employment claims is not discriminatory. However,some may have been surprised to read these words from a Governmentspokesperson: “Some issues are already clear. We must erode the presentcliff edge at the end of working life – where on Friday someone is a valuedmember of the workforce, but by Monday they are shunted into retirement. Thiswill mean extending choice and removing financial penalties that stand in people’sway. And it will mean legislating to end age discrimination at work.”Thesewere the words of the Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith at the LabourParty Conference – but the subject matter was not compulsory retirement age,rather separate legislation concerning pension reforms.InlandRevenue regulations are to be reformed, opening up the possibility of easierretention when an employee has reached retirement age. Easier, that is, for theemployer to persuade staff to stay on. Thecurrent Inland Revenue regulations prevent employees from taking a pension andsalary from the same employer unless a completely different job is taken. Asa result, employees find they are unable to wind down to part-time work andstay with the same company purely because of financial difficulties. Thechanges to the pension restrictions will remove these financial barriers. Thiswill clearly benefit employers who wish to retain older workers who have keyroles in the company, and might otherwise be lost to competitors. Thismight be misinterpreted as the Government’s first step in introducinglegislation giving older workers more rights. However, whether the employee isinvited to stay on after retirement age is the employer’s choice. An employeedoesn’t have the right to complain if they are not retained. But legislationintroducing real rights for older workers is definitely in the pipeline.Implementationof the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations must take place before December2006. Although the first draft has not yet been published, it appears likely itwill be unlawful for an employer to stipulate a compulsory retirement age thatcannot be justified by the needs of the particular job.Inthe current situation, the Stratford Employment Tribunal’s decision is persuasive,but it does not change the law. Lawbooks still state that an employee over 65 years old or at normal retirementage, will not be able to bring a claim against their employer. Yet employeesare bringing claims on the back of this decision and these claims are beingstayed pending the appeal being heard. Everytime an employee is retired, there is a risk that they may present a complaintof unfair dismissal. Employers either have to follow a full dismissal procedureand identify a fair reason for dismissal, or bite the bullet and see whetherthey submit a claim. Thisuncertainty could be quickly addressed by the introduction of new legislation.Everybody knows that age discrimination laws must come into force. Delay nowmeans that employers are left in limbo and the tribunals lists are gettinglonger. Yes,there are practical difficulties in introducing age discrimination regulations.But there must also have been difficulties introducing similar legislationoutlawing race, sex and disability discrimination. Itwill take time for employers to become accustomed to age discriminationlegislation, and it is likely that for many, an inability to recognise it as aserious issue will result in costly claims and potentially large compensationawards. However,the benefit will be a return to certainty – which has got to be in everybody’sbest interests.ByMichael Ball, Employment partner, Halliwell Landau Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more