SO NOW WE WILL ALL have to work until we are 68 before we get a state pension. Well, actually, you will have to work until you’re 68 - I won’t because I’m an old fart who’s been around so long I will still be able to put my feet up at 65. Not that I ever envisage that will be the case - as I mentioned last month, the prospect of spending 24/7 with her indoors doesn’t bear thinking about.
I GUESS THIS NEW, ENFORCED longevity ties in nicely with the Age Discrimination Act that takes effect from October. This appeared to be a sensible piece of legislation. Although it’s mainly been the large companies that thought you were past it at 55, the situations vacant columns are full of examples of arbitrary age limits for applicants. I’ve always found this a bit puzzling - I’ve interviewed plenty of 25 year-olds who couldn’t move fast enough to catch a cold.
OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS the age profile of my employees has tended to polarise between either the under-21s or the over-55s, which is no doubt a consequence of the ubiquitous working tax credit scheme that rewards our population for staying at home and having lots of kids. In truth, I would probably be happier only employing more senior people. Maybe it’s a generation thing or maybe it’s because of the lack of alternative employment opportunities, but this is a segment of the population that understands the value of being reliable, can do basic mental arithmetic so can realise when there’s been an obvious mistake with the till and, possibly most importantly, still shows respect for others.
I HAD SAID THAT INITIALLY I welcomed the principle of Age Discrimination legislation. Judging by the Employers’ Guide that has been issued with it however, it may be that the laws of unintended consequences have kicked in. No longer will you be able to advertise ’experience preferred’ or ’ideal applicant would have a successful track record in...’ -that is discriminating against younger workers. Not only won’t you be able to advertise, but you also won’t be able choose your employee based on any of their previous employment history - also discriminating against the young. Even the question of academic qualifications is fraught with danger - again possible discrimination against the young.
IMAGINE THE POSSIBLE cross-examination at an industrial tribunal: "Chair of the Governors, you appointed Ms Tweddle as head of school rather than my client Billy Spotty. Was this because Ms Tweddle has been a teacher for 15 years, a head of department for five years and a deputy head for three years whereas my client only qualified as a teacher six months ago?"
THEN THERE IS THE HELPFUL advice that you mustn’t differentiate the duties of an employee due to their age. So if, in the past, you hadn’t asked Fred, aged 63, to hump 15 boxes of 4 x 5ltr oil into the stockroom, but had asked Steve, aged 19, instead, then be prepared for Steve to file a claim at the Tribunal.
IN THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS an 18 year-old starts off at the bottom of the ladder. If he/she shows enthusiasm and an ability to learn, then a sensible employer moves them up a rung. By the time this process has been repeated a few times, the employee has learnt a lot more, matured as a person and is ready to take on some responsibility. Interestingly enough, I assume that is the reason why the Minimum Wage is less for under-21s. (I wonder how that position can be defended from October?) Likewise, if an organisation is daft enough to kick people out purely because they’ve reached a certain birthday they deserve to suffer the consequences.
WHAT WAS NEEDED WAS legislation to say that a dismissal purely due to age would be automatically considered unfair. Instead, we get the politically-correct lobby running riot. Nanny State gone mad!