New age new discrimination laws to be introduced in the the UK next year could end up encouraging employers to retire everyone at 65 rather than trying to keep them on.
A poll by the Employers Forum on Age has found employers are sceptical about the likely impact of the new laws, which come into effect on 1 October next year.
More than six out of 10 – 63 per cent – of employers thought that, rather than encouraging organisations to keep people on post 65, the new regulations could actually encourage employers to retire everyone at 65.
Nearly nine out of 10 found the Government's approach to service-related benefits, such as pensions, confusing, while 75 per cent were worried the regulations put annual leave, sickness benefits and long service awards under threat.
Perhaps most worrying, more than half – 59 per cent – were concerned about the lack of guidance available to help employers understand where and when they can continue to use age in employment decision making.
Many of the proposed age regulations remain incomplete and the Government has already indicated that even those published may change, said the EFA.
Sam Mercer, EFA director, said: "UK employers are getting desperate. They were promised two years to prepare for the biggest piece of employment law for a decade, yet age laws will be introduced in less than 12 months, and still the regulations remain unclear and incomplete.
"Vital information on issues such as redundancy will come out in dribs and drabs, and UK employers will be lucky if they have all the details by April next year.
"The lack of time to prepare and lack of infrastructure to educate employers on their new responsibilities leaves UK plc dangerously exposed come October 2006," she added.
James Davies, partner at employment lawyer Lewis Silkin, agreed: "While the government's proposals are well intentioned, many employees will not understand that, despite the introduction of age legislation, they still have limited rights to work beyond 65.
"For employers the difficulty will be in how they justify keeping on Joan, aged 67, but retire John, aged 65. Unfortunately the Government's plans may result in companies retiring everyone at 65 to avoid costly employment tribunals," he added.