Almost 1000 workers in the UK are suing their bosses over ageism, it emerged today.
Around 950 claims have been filed since the introduction of new laws in October banning discrimination on the grounds of age, according to the Employment Tribunals Service.
Businesses could be facing compensation claims running into seven figures, according to experts at leading law firm Brabners Chaffe Street, who run discriminationonline.com – the UK’s first website dedicated to issues of discrimination.
Employment lawyer Joe Shelston, an expert in age discrimination, said: “We receive a lot of queries from employers asking about job adverts and how they should be worded. If you look at most recruitment websites, you will still see adverts for young and dynamic staff, which on the face of it are unlawful. So far no-one has faced any action for this but it’s only a matter of time.
“Other adverts which stress that a successful candidate needs 10 years experience also technically break the rules, as a younger candidate is less likely to meet that requirement.
“We haven’t seen the impact we initially expected after the new laws were introduced, however, this may be due to the tribunal system. A lot of cases are working through the system and a typical discrimination case can take up to nine months, so we should see some big cases coming through soon.”
Mr Shelston said employers needed to be “very, very careful” or face huge compensation claims.
He said: “The awards for age discrimination are uncapped so it is not unrealistic to see employers facing seven figure payouts.
“The days of replacing older, more expensive workers with someone twenty years younger are long gone. Employers need to be very, very careful.”
The age debate hit the headlines last month after TV presenter Nick Ross resigned from Crimewatch in a row over ageism at the BBC. His shock resignation came only three months after veteran newsreader Moira Stuart was sidelined amid claims of ageism.
The cost to UK businesses of discriminating against staff has soared over recent years – and is predicted to rise yet further in 2007.
Latest figures suggest discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation cost the economy £320 million in 2006, a rise of 52 per cent.
And that figure is only likely to rise further following the introduction of laws to tackle age discrimination in October last year.
Around 23,000 discrimination related legal claims were brought in the UK last year.