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(August 02, 2005) Ageism is coming to a complaint desk near you. This month's "Professional Recruiter", a UK monthly, covers the consequences of new anti-age-discrimination legislation.

Recruiters will be among the groups most vulnerable to age discrimination claims under new legislation coming into effect in October next year.
Sam Mercer, director of the Employers' Forum on Age, a charity promoting age diversity, warns that most ageism claims are most likely to arise during the recruitment process.

She urged recruiters to ensure their processes are as fair as possible because age discrimination will be considered as serious as sexism or racism under the new laws.

In Ireland, where age discrimination has been outlawed for seven years, ageism now accounts for almost a quarter (22%) of all discrimination claims.
"If you look at Ireland, which is quite similar to the UK in terms of culture, most of the claims have been at the recruitment end of the process," said Mercer.

Employers discriminating on the grounds of age must find valid business reasons for doing so. But Mercer warned: "There may be temptation for people to think they can drive a coach and horses through the legislation because of the exemption clause.

"But it is going to be extremely difficult and costly for employers to justify age discrimination and then provide evidence to back it up."
Recruiters and employers must start looking at their processes now to ensure they comply with the new laws.

Budget airline Ryanair was one of the first companies to fall foul of the rules after they were introduced in Ireland.

The company advertised for a "young, dynamic professional", but argued in court that it had been looking for candidates who were "young at heart". But Ryanair lost the case after evidence showed none of the 28 candidates who applied for the job was over 40.

The case found that interview and selection procedures were not consistent with Ryanair's equal opportunities policy.
- Recruiter, Recruiters in firing line on ageism, by Richard Staines

As is often becoming the case, the United States is somewhat behind the times in terms of age related legislation. The demographic changes facing America are happening a bit more slowly than they are arounfd the rest of the world. As a result, the heightened emphasis on ageism in the workplace hasn't quite reached our shores.

Take a good look at the Employers' Forum on Age. "Tackling Ageism in the Workplace" may not be the sort of revolutionary chant you had in mind, but chanted it is. As the government and leading employers come to terms with our demographics, the focus will clearly be on the legal rights of the over-50 crowd.

John Sumser

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