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27/09/2006

"Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

The Times Law blog suggests that the incoming age discrimination legislation could result in some bizarre misinterpretations, citing the QCA’s frankly strange interpretation of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 as a prior example.

This could well be true. It is not only the denizens of Daily Mail land who are incapable of distinguishing between ‘treat everyone the same’ and ‘nothing that unreasonably makes things more difficult for someone on grounds of…’. Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 satire on the former, ‘Harrison Bergeron‘, is still taken as astute criticism by the ‘political correctness gone mad’ troupe.

Of course, we won’t know the details of the incoming law until the tribunals and courts have had a crack at it. I would be surprised if analogies to previous discrimination law weren’t taken pretty seriously, though, in terms of the law’s scope, depth and for considerations of reasonableness.

Overall, I’d agree that it is quite likely that what the law ‘means’ will be the subject of widespread rumour, misrepresentation and ‘you couldn’t make it up’ style columnist fibbing. Which is odd, as it seems that some things are pretty clear ahead of clarification of the law in the tribunals. Direct reference to age requirements in job ads, descriptions, training and promotion schemes, incentive schemes, etc., obviously. Date of birth on application forms, possibly, depending on how the information appears to have been used or can be inferred to have been used. Removing requests for dates of qualifications and previous employment (as opposed to, say, duration of employment) from applications, possibly, again depending on the apparent use of the information or drawn inference. And there is plenty more.

Beyond this, indirect discrimination will be a very interesting field to develop. (Obviously, given my advanced maturity, I must declare an interest).

But despite BBC breakfast having a stab at explanation this week, there has been little in the way of general public education or awareness campaigns to avoid the growth of myths. This is a pity, because I suspect this legislation will have a significant effect.

Now, what happens with the European Court challenge to the remaining statutory retirement age?

Oh and test yourself against the BBC. No warranty of accuracy implied.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

3 Comments

  1. James Medhurst

    I suspect the media prefer people to believe the myths than the reality. It is much easier to harness opposition to a law if the threat is exaggerated. I expect the Sun will say that it will apply to Page 3 Girls!

    Reply
  2. anna

    Does anyone know how this legislation affect `seniority’ based awards – i.e. the longer the length of service, the more annual leave you are entitled to? I can be emailed directly – anna@virtualconcierge.org, for anyone willing to share their understanding of the new regs.
    Many thanks

    Reply
  3. contact

    Hmmm, I was wondering that myself the other day. Cue a new post.

    Reply

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