How the Law Society of Scotland's own staff had to brush up their skills and awareness to match the Age Equality Regulations

For the Law Society of Scotland, the coming into force of the Age Equality Regulations on 1 October led to a review of key employment policies, including recruitment, training, retirement and redundancy.

The Society selected Keith L Miller Associates, training and management consultants, to provide a bespoke training package covering two key areas, recruitment and age awareness.

Managing director Keith Miller describes the new regulations as “undoubtedly the biggest change in employment law in the past 30 years”. They cover all employees, private, public and voluntary sector, providers of vocational training, trade unions, trustees, professional associations and employer organisations.

Ken Cunningham, HR Manager at the Society said: “We recently redeveloped our website to support online recruitment, and introduced a standard application form. These changes also enabled us to take account of employment legislation and in particular the effect of the new age legislation.”

It is crucial that managers at the Society understand the new procedures, especially the preparation of job descriptions, employee specifications, advertising and interviewing.

Using phrases such as “experienced and mature”, “young and dynamic” or asking for “10 years’ experience” could be indirectly discriminating against younger or older workers, though an employer may justify the discrimination as a proportionate way to pursue business objectives. 

Tailored course

The course provided participants with the knowledge and skills to understand the law affecting recruitment, prepare job descriptions and specifications, and improve interview and assessment techniques. 

Companies should train managers to be proactive in dealing with ageism. The Society went one step further and trained all 130 members of staff in age awareness and the implications of the regulations.

For managers, Keith Miller recommended that in addition to understanding key elements of the legislation, the training should focus on their responsibility for implementation, in the areas of recruitment, training, promotions, retirement and redundancy.

Test of knowledge

Part of the course included a legal quiz. For example: A 22 year old is great at their job, but has just been turned down for a promotion because they don’t have the necessary five years experience. Could the new legislation help?

The answer: Yes. The employer has to show that they made the decision based on suitability for the job and that five years’ experience is essential. 

When asked the maximum award for discrimination compensation, a number of participants were unsure of the answer. The fact that there is no limit reinforces the importance of having policy and procedures to meet the legislation and that managers and employees not only understand but implement them.

Another area highlighted was the changes to retirement and the default age of 65. Employers are now required to notify employees in writing of their right to request working beyond retirement age; however employers have the right to refuse to approve it.

Professional approach

Ken Cunningham reports a very positive reaction from those attending. “The main feedback was the absolute need for good preparation before advertising positions, with an emphasis on appropriate job titles, tight job descriptions, and specifications which reflect what is actually required within the job rather than what is felt to be required.”

Keith L Miller Associates
phone/fax: 01236 738748

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