HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 c17WS
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

I have today published a consultation paper covering options for transposition of that part of the EU Employment Directive that prohibits discrimination on grounds of age in employment and vocational training and guidance.

The consultation period will run until 20 October. During this time views on the options for implementation will be actively sought from all stakeholders.

Although the Employment Directive outlaws age discrimination in employment and vocational training, it does allow for differences of treatment on the grounds of age to continue in limited circumstances if they can be objectively justified with reference to a legitimate aim set out in the legislation.

The key options for implementation on which we are consulting include: The abolition of employers' mandatory retirement ages (dismissal at a given age) unless employers can objectively justify them. The possibility of including in our implementing regulations, a default retirement age of 70, at which employers could retire employees. A list of proposed legitimate aims which employers, exceptionally, could use to help justify the retention of a small number of age-related practices. Some changes to the legislation regarding unfair dismissal and redundancy.

Retirement age in particular is a crucial issue on which there is no clear consensus. For this reason we have provided a number of options for discussion and would invite all interested parties to engage in the consultation process. The information obtained from the consultation will be used to shape the content of the legislation.

The Employment Directive deadline for full implementation of the age legislation is the end of 2006. However, it is the Government's aim to have the regulations in place but not in force by the end of 2004. This will provide all those affected by the legislation ample time to prepare for changes before the legislation comes into force in October 2006.

I have placed copies of the consultation paper and other related documents in the Libraries of the House.