I move amendment No. 16:
In page 12, subsection (3), line 33, to delete paragraph (a).
These three amendments deal with the exemptions proposed as regards discrimination on grounds of age. On the face of it, the Bill provides that discrimination on grounds of age should be illegal. There are, however, a number of exemptions to this ground. The exemption in section 6(3)(a) states that a person who has attained the age of 65 years is exempted - in other words, it will be legal to discriminate in employment against somebody who is 65 years or over.
Section 34(3) and (5), provides that it will not be unlawful to discriminate on the age or disability grounds in circumstances where it is shown there is clear actuarial or other evidence that significantly increased costs would result if the discrimination were not permitted in these circumstances. Section 34(5) states:
. . . it shall not constitute discrimination on the age ground to set, in relation to any job, a maximum age for recruitment which takes account of-
(a) any cost or period of time involved in training a recruit to a standard at which the recruit will be effective in that job, and
(b) the need for there to be a reasonable period of time prior to retirement age during which the recruit will be effective in that job.
This means that an employer may still set a maximum age for recruitment and may justify it on the grounds under section 34(3) that there are actuarial reasons. In other words, presumably the employee would not build up sufficient pension entitlement and there would be problems with the pension scheme in recruiting the employee. Under section 34(5), the employer could justify discrimination on the grounds that it would take too long to train the prospective employee or the employee will not be in employment for a sufficient period prior to retirement.
These are fairly open-ended methods by which an employer may get round age discrimination. A problem which is increasingly occurring in employment is that, although there is no problem up to the mid 40s, from the mid 40s on, people are being increasingly discriminated against in employment. Employers are setting upper age limits for the recruitment of people and are not, in practice, employing people as they move on in years. In manual employment, in particular, it is regularly the case that people, particularly if they are male and over 40 years, are virtually becoming unemployable once they lose their first employment. Employers are becoming increasingly resistant to the idea of bringing them into the workforce.
This pattern is likely to continue and worsen as changes continue in the nature of work given the new technology and the information society of which we are becoming a part. There is scope for employers to use section 34(5) to say it will cost too much to train somebody or that they will not be in employment for a sufficient period of time. There is enormous scope for employers to get around the age bar.
I raised a case some months ago of a job in the public service where an age limit of 50 years was quoted. In fairness to the Minister, he intervened and the age limit was lifted. However, it became fairly apparent that there is a working assumption in the Civil Service, the public service generally and in Government, that there will be some type of a cut off for recruitment at 55 years, thus discriminating against people who are older.
Much of the age discrimination - I refer in particular to compulsory retirement at 65 years - was based on the assumption that people started their working lives in their early 20s, worked in the same job for 40 years until they reached 65 years and retired on a pension. That assumption is gone and the nature of work has changed completely. The pattern of work and a person's working life has changed. A situation may arise where people will have to change jobs and careers several times in the course of their employment.
Employers continually tell us there must be flexibility in employment and that workers must be flexible and change employment. That is fine up to a point and we all understand why it is economically necessary. However, the corollary of that is that there will have to be protection for people moving on in years so that people can change jobs and will not be discriminated against at 55 or 60 years if they apply for posts having lost their previous jobs.
There is no point having a provision in law which says we cannot discriminate on grounds of age while saying it is all right to discriminateif the employer can say it will cost too much to train a person and will cost too much to the pension scheme. We should be clear that discrimination on grounds of age should not be permitted.