Birthday card ban over age discrimination fear

Age discrimination law

13.10.2006

A company has banned birthday cards being passed to workers to sign in case they write insulting messages about the person's age as they feel they might fall foul of new age discrimination rules.

Bournemouth insurance brokers, fears that references to the age of members of staff in the cards written by colleagues could be problematic under recently-introduced equality regulations.

Employment expert

James Wright, Head of Employment law in the Sheffield office of Irwin Mitchell said "If this is true it seems like an extreme measure, however companies should take care to ensure they comply with the new laws on age discrimination."

Mr Wright continues that rather than banning birthday cards, employers should deal with the source of the discrimination risk - the employees.

References to age discrimination should be made in equal opportunities and anti-harassment policies. This should be followed up with training to all employees to indicate that while sending cards celebrating employee's birthdays is acceptable, comments contained in the cards or cards that poke fun at someone's age, or apparent age, are unacceptable to the employer.

Employment advice

Mr Wright said "Employees should be warned that the employer will not tolerate such conduct and it could result in the sender(s) being subject to disciplinary sanction. By taking such steps, employers are more likely to eliminate the discrimination at source and should be able to demonstrate they are not liable for the discriminatory acts of employees acting in contravention of clear instructions."