Months after new laws came into force banning age discrimination, thousands of businesses are still confused as to what it means for their organisation.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 finally came into force in a blaze of publicity on October 1.

Yet¬†months on, thousands of businesses remain confused as to what the new laws allow – and don’t allow – them to do.

Already, that confusion has resulted in some firms banning birthday cards from the workplace in fear that jokey age-based comments may breach the new regulations.

Now, a firm of lawyers which has run a series of special seminars on the new legislation has compiled a list of delegates’ most common misconceptions.

The research involving 500 companies, carried out by law firm Brabners Chaffe Street, has revealed widespread confusion about what the legislation means to businesses.

Among them were managers who thought they couldn’t reward staff loyalty and that all workers were now automatically entitled to work beyond the age of 65.

Others thought one easy way around the regulations was to outsource their responsibility by hiring an employment agency.

Marcus Difelice, a parter at Brabners Chaffe Street, said that considering the publicity the legislation enjoyed, the results were shocking.

“The business pages have been full of age discrimination for 18 months,” said Marcus.

“Yet there are still thousands of businesses who still don’t understand what they should be changing to remain within the law.

“On the one hand, some firms are being so cautious, they struggling to run a successful business.

“But far more worrying are the firms who think they can simply hire an outside agency, devolve all their responsibility that way and go behaving as if the law wasn’t there.”

The five most popular misconceptions were:
1. Employees now have an automatic right to work beyond the age of 65.
2. Businesses can no longer ask for a candidate’s age or date of birth on application forms.
3. Firms cannot ask for a specified number of years’ experience in job advertisements.
4. I can’t reward loyalty because service-related pay or benefits are now banned.
5. As a recruiter, I’m not responsible for what an employment agency does on my behalf, or for what my clients or customers do.

“To a greater or lesser extent, each one of these statements is misconceived,” said Mr Difelice. “But each one kept being repeated by business after business that we saw.

“This is after the legislation has come into force.

“Once the issue slips out of the news, there are going to be a lot of people risking their business through ignorance of one of the most important pieces of legislation in a generation.”