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The true cost of employment legislation to UK industry

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A survey of 50 of the UK’s leading companies by law firm BLP on the second anniversary of key UK age discrimination regulations has revealed half of businesses are finding compliance with the law time consuming and onerous.  The findings, coming from businesses across the corporate spectrum with a combined market turnover of over £79bn and with over 250,000 employees, also found that half of employers have had requests to continue working beyond the state retirement age, suggesting that the UK’s retirement laws, which were recently given a tentative thumbs up by the Advocate-General of the European Court, are increasingly out of step with the wishes of employees.


The survey confirms Government statistics that show age has already overtaken religion and sexual orientation as the main driver for claims made and compensation awards.  Other findings from the survey include:


  • 75% of retail and manufacturing respondents have received requests by employees to work beyond the retirement age, significantly higher than the average, all-industry figure of 50%
  • Over the last 24 months, nearly 20% of employers have dealt with age discrimination grievances
  • Most of all respondents spend at least half a day on each post-retirement work request – many citing it takes ‘significantly longer’
  • Larger employers have had particular difficulties with the regulations, with over two-thirds complaining that the laws have had a negative impact on their business
  • Almost all respondents, across all sectors, including retail, financial services, telecoms and entertainment, approved requests to continue working after retirement age.


Rebecca Harding-Hill, a partner in BLP’s Employment group, commented: “Two years on since the age legislation was introduced, we are seeing age discrimination stress points in employers’ work practices.  The time and cost involved in dealing with age discrimination issues in recruitment and retirement has turned out to be very significant. Our survey highlights that UK industry has found implementing the age discrimination laws a considerable drain on management resources.   


“The concerns that were raised about having a statutory retirement age of 65 seem to be unfounded.  Employers across the board appear happy to contemplate employees working beyond retirement.  Our survey highlights that, whilst having a retirement age is useful for employers, it is not an impediment to the continued employment of older workers.  This adds weight to the argument that the UK Government may well be able to justify having a national retirement age, as suggested by the Advocate-General in the Heyday case earlier in September.” 





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