From 1 October 2006, new legislation comes into effect intended to combat age discrimination.

During a recent series of seminars, commercial law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn carried out a survey of delegates to understand employers' concerns and see what efforts they are making to take the new law on board.

More than one in four delegates claimed they themselves intended to work past the anticipated default retirement age of 65 while a further 15% were unsure.

With speculation over pensions, carrying on earning may become a necessity. Of delegates questioned, 94% believed that financing their retirement would be difficult, agreeing that employees should be allowed to request to work beyond 65.

One-third of businesses were actively reviewing policies and procedures. In many cases, executive-level discussions had taken place but only two of the 85 delegates had already consulted with employees on the new legislation.

A small number were taking "some other action" to prepare their businesses - information gathering, preparing action plans and training, and producing interim guidance.

Just over half the delegates did not foresee an impact on their remuneration practices. However, the majority of those who had concerns felt that length of service benefits would be affected. This may be harsh news for employees who have been looking forward to extra days' holiday for longer service.

36% considered that they would be at risk of Employment Tribunal claims if the legislation were in force today. While most delegates foresaw claims being raised by older workers many realised that younger workers could also take advantage of the rules.

Once the draft regulations are finalised, the position will become clearer. However, employers should think ahead and should ensure that their policies and practices are updated and reviewed in order to avoid unnecessary Tribunal claims.

Sheila Gunn is a partner specialising in employment law with commercial law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn. 0141 566 8555

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