Two recent events have once again catapulted the issue of age in the work place into the limelight.
Countryfile host Miriam O'Reilly, now 53, has won her age discrimination Employment Tribunal claim against the BBC after they discriminated against her for being "too old". She had been dropped from the show when it moved to a more primetime slot in 2009. Three other presenters aged over 40 were also axed alongside Miriam.
The Tribunal heard allegations that Miriam was warned to be "careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in", asked whether it was "time for Botox" and offered a can of black spray dye to cover up a white gap on her head. Although they appeared to vigorously defend the claim, which lasted for 10 days, they have since apologised and have accepted the Tribunal’s decision.
The other issue to arise is the phasing out of the ‘default retiring age’ of 65. This means that employer’s will no longer be able avoid claims for age discrimination and unfair dismissal when dismissing someone because they have reached the age of 65.
The current position will be completely abolished on 1 October this year. This means that 30th March 2011 will be the last day on which an employer can give the 6 months' notice which is needed to ensure that enforced retirement of an employee at age 65 will not be unfair dismissal or age discrimination.
Employers will still be able to set a compulsory retirement age, however this will need to objectively justified. This is something which many employers may have difficulty with depending upon the industry and job role.
With an ageing population, this move recognises the value older employees can still bring to workplace.