Four out of five companies took no age discrimination action

Fewer than one in five companies have changed their employment and recruitment practices in the wake of new anti-age discrimination laws, according to research by employment relations body ACAS.

Last October new laws came into force making it unlawful to discriminate against someone in the workplace on the basis of their age. An ACAS survey found that just 17% of companies had changed their approach.

The research also found that 10% of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) had treated employees differently because of their age in the past and had still not changed their practices.

"It's almost a year since the new age discrimination rules were introduced and employment tribunal complaints have been made," said Steve Williams, head of equality at ACAS. "Many employers still haven't realised what this could mean for them."

ACAS has launched a free online course to help companies to ensure that company practices are compliant with the new law. The course defines what discrimination is, explains what The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations mean, what effect it has on recruitment and how to enable a fair retirement.

The Regulations say that there should be no discrimination on the basis of age in a company's recruitment, promotion, training and provision of benefits to staff. The Regulations also introduced some new duties for firms, such as a duty for employers to consider an employee’s request to continue working beyond retirement and a requirement for employers to give written notification to employees at least six months in advance of their intended retirement date to allow employees to plan for their retirement

"Acas can help to minimise the risk of prosecution and to make employment decisions on the basis of talent and skills alone," said Williams. "Our new age e-learning course can help anyone who feels they might need help to understand what age discrimination means and how to prevent discrimination in their workplace."

There are exceptions to the Regulations. The minimum wage is still lower for those under 21 than those above that age, and some jobs can still carry age related exclusions if there is a specific reason for it.