News Analysis

By The Drum | Administrator

November 9, 2006 | 4 min read

If you think that the new age regulations act won\'t affect the way you recruit new staff, think again.

On 1 October 2006, the new Employment Equality (Age) Regulations Act came into force. It’s a fact that workers will be getting older; within five years 25m people will be over 50 and 17 per cent of them will be workers. The aim of the new legislation is to make sure age is not a barrier to employment.

It is becoming very clear that it’s not just a simple matter of having a positive attitude to age in the workplace. The new regulations are going to radically change the way we recruit in the creative industry, and fundamentally affect the language and terminology we all use to describe roles within the business.

For instance, widely used titles such as ‘junior designer’ and ‘senior account manager’ are now a big no-no, as the words ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ indirectly discriminate on the grounds of age. According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the terms ‘heavyweight’ and ‘middleweight’ imply seniority in terms of age, and it recommends that they be used with caution.

We all know the terms ‘junior’ or \'senior’ and ‘heavyweight’ or ‘middleweight’ are used to attract a candidate with the required experience, and have nothing to do with their age, but if these words are used in recruitment advertising and an objection is raised, you could now find yourself in front of an employment tribunal and on the receiving end of a large fine which, according to recent information from the REC, could be well over £50,000.

Obvious age-related words have to be stripped from ads, such as ‘mature’ and ‘youthful’, but also less obvious adjectives like ‘lively’, ‘ambitious’, ‘dynamic’, ‘energetic’ and even ‘fun’. Guidelines from ACAS, Britain’s leading employment organisation, advise against using language that may imply that a company is looking for someone of a certain age. So, descriptions of how a company works, such as ‘a work hard/play hard culture’ or ‘young and dynamic agency’, which feature a lot in job ads, are now taboo. Why? Because they could imply that older people are not young and dynamic, or that people with family commitments cannot work late.

Online recruitment will also be affected. Job searchers who could, until now, happily type in to a search engine universally understood phrases such as \'senior designer\' to access jobs relevant to their experience, will now have to wade through thousands of design jobs to weed out the relevant ones. ACAS advises against placing vacancies where they cannot be seen by the widest audience. Would this mean vacancies advertised only on the internet could be seen to be discriminating against the older generation who are not so ‘web savvy’ as the young? In an age when more and more older people are becoming ‘silver surfers’, we find this advice highly debatable. In fact it could be argued that the regulation itself discriminates against older people, as it assumes they won’t have access to or be able to use the internet!

It is quickly becoming clear that we are going to have to develop a completely new way of describing the people we want to attract in order to comply with the new regulations. Ad writers must now focus on abilities, competency levels or skills required and make sure there is no reference to age or to how long an individual has been working in the industry.

So popping an ad in The Drum to find that ‘senior designer’ from now on won’t be as easy as it used to be. Without the familiar language, you run the risk of being inundated with people who have no industry experience or people who just fancy being a senior designer as they once designed a logo for their Uncle Tom’s window cleaning company!

Having a good relationship with a specialist recruitment agency that really understands what you’re after could now be more important than ever.

Steve Cooper runs recruitment consultancy, SCR.


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