They are usually used to terminate an employee’s employment, and if negotiated properly, are a very useful tool for employees and employers as they enable the employer to ensure that no future claims will be made by an employee, whilst allowing an employee to receive a financial payment (very often tax free) as compensation for giving up such rights. They save the need for employment tribunal proceedings which can be expensive and time-consuming, and may attract potentially damaging publicity.
In order to be binding, there are several requirements that must be fulfilled, however, the most important is that the employee must take independent legal advice on the contents and the effect of the agreement before agreeing to enter in to it.
Do we have to do anything else in our recruitment adverts?
You need to be able to justify if you are asking for certain levels of experience. Advertising for a bus driver who is safe and has had previous experience is one thing advertising for a bus driver with 10 years’ experience is another. The first option leaves your job advert open for all ages to apply. The second rules out individuals who may be in their early twenties.
Other points to consider when recruiting new employees:
- Ensure whoever is interviewing potential employee’s scores interviewees on their skills and competencies as opposed to their age.
- Although they are not discriminatory themselves consider removing any reference to age on your job application forms.
- Don’t ask a potential employee for a physical fitness test unless you require them.
Once you have selected an appropriate employee ensure managers and staff are trained to monitor and avoid any discriminatory behaviour. Also make sure it is clear within any policies you have that discrimination in any form is unacceptable. Ensure managers are fully trained in diversity issues and that they are able to deal with discriminatory issues that arise within the workplace.
Do we have to go to court in order to get a settlement agreed?
You are not required to get a settlement approved by the court, unless you do get a consent order either of you will be able to change your minds. To get a clean break you are required to have a court order.
Do we need to worry about these requirements if we employ people in their 50’s and 60’s?
Yes you need to be aware of these requirements if you employ anyone of any age. They affect every area of employment as well as the recruitment and selection process. The requirements not only make it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age but also harassment whether it be intentional or unintentional or to victimise an individual.
You need to worry not only about your own actions but also your fellow employees who must be discouraged from making offensive or unkind comments about age or anything in between.
As with other areas of discrimination if your employee can demonstrate that there has been a difference in treatment which is due to discrimination it is solely down to you the employer to show otherwise or for you to prove that you have done everything in your power to stop such discrimination. There are no limits to discrimination awards and often they include an aspect for suffering, failure to do so can be expensive.
How does age discrimination requirements effect the recruitment process?
When you are recruiting employees you need to ensure you are not discriminating for or against anyone due to their age. This means you cannot advertise specific age requirements in any of your job adverts unless you can justify them.
If we agree on a settlement outside of court is there any way in which we can prevent the employee from coming back to make another claim?
Yes if you reach a settlement through ACAS you are able to go for a legally binding agreement which states that neither side are able to come back later for a second bite of the cherry.
The other option is for you to get a settlement agreement under which the employee waives his or hers statutory rights in return for an agreed settlement which they have received independent legal advice. If an employee was to accept such a settlement it would make it impossible for them to return for another go.
Settlement agreements have to be drafted carefully as various legal decisions on the effectiveness or scope of a particular settlement agreement have in the past gone against employees based on the precise wording in the agreement.
Is it best to settle a claim outside of court or is it worth fighting in court?
It makes more sense to settle a claim outside of the courts, in reasonable terms. You should consider fighting for a case if:
- The party is plainly in the wrong but can’t be brought to see it
- There are mitigating circumstances which are more than likely to have a big effect on any award you may have to pay
- You believe a settlement would send the wrong message to other employees and possibly give rise to more trouble in the future
Our employees are all in their early twenties if we employ someone in their sixties they would be out of place. Do we have to hire someone of this age?
If you interview someone in their sixties and they turn out to be as good or even better than your current employees in their twenties you should not let their age be a determining factor as to whether you hire them or not. Since October 2006 it has been unlawful to reject anyone for an interview based on their age. There is not a lot employers can do to control the age of their workforce therefore you would potentially have to recruit someone in their sixties even if you have a younger workforce.
What are the conditions of age discrimination?
In 2011 legislation new legislation was introduced making it unlawful to treat anyone differently due to their age except if it could be justified or falls within one of the exemptions to the law. The retirement age of 65 has now been phased out meaning employers can now only forcibly retire workers if it can be justified.
What year did the requirements of age discrimination come into effect?
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations came into effect in October 2006. The retirement age of 65 was phased out between April 2011 and October 2011.