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Age no bar for Scunthorpe manager

Age discrimination legislation


Age discrimination is now illegal but amid the debate about retirement ages and pension levels, employers should be aware that the new legislation doesn't just apply to older workers. It can apply equally to people leaving school, college and university. Discrimination has always been unfair, and now it is illegal - at any age.

Whilst the focus has been on the over 50s, there are pressing issues for younger workers. In Yorkshire and Humber nearly 30 per cent of young people aged between 16 and 24 years are economically inactive, and nearly a third of the total number claiming benefit fall in the 18-24 age group.

But amid these statistics there are some outstanding success stories.

Anti-age discrimination

Take Jan Coaker, the Manager of Scunthorpe's Blue Bell, a JD Wetherspoon house. Jan is not your average pub landlady.

In 1997 at the age of only 21 she joined Wetherspoons as one of their youngest managers, attracted by the idea of working closely with the public. Like many others at her age, she was fresh from a free and easy year travelling around the world, but along the way she had gained some experience in bar work which encouraged her to think, even at this young age, that this was an industry in which she could build a career. Her confident manner, and strong people skills so impressed the recruitment team at JD Wetherspoon, an organisation which has pioneered an open and forward-looking policy on age and recruitment, that they readily invited her to join their team.

Now aged 30 and with nine year's experience already under her belt, she is the Manager of the Blue Bell a lively, town centre public house in Scunthorpe. Still diminutive and youthful, she nevertheless deals authoritatively with suppliers and members of the public, and has recruited and now manages a mixed-aged team of 20 full and part-time bar and catering staff.

Jan says: "No-one has ever raised the question of my age - and it was certainly not an issue with Wetherspoon's who have always supported me a hundred percent. Occasionally suppliers or member of the public look a bit surprised - I don't think I am always what they are expecting - but I am not easily intimidated and my authority has always been accepted.

This is work I really enjoy -I am a 'people person' - and I certainly intend to stay within the industry and continue to build my career with Wetherspoons."

Age discrimination

With more than 650 outlets throughout the UK, Wetherspoons have rethought their recruitment strategy, looking at where and how they advertise, and taking account of age demographics. They have taken trouble to explain to their managers, who oversee the recruitment of staff at a local level, the importance of age diversity and non-discriminatory employment practices, revising their job specifications and re-writing their interviewing skills courses to address the issues of age diversity and age discrimination.

Phil Pluck, Acas Regional Director for Yorkshire and Humber, says:

"There have been a number of studies which show that, in most jobs, there is little or no relationship between age and job performance. If we are not to waste the potential that exists in the region, we clearly need to ensure that people of all ages - including younger people - are given equal access to employment.

"Age discrimination doesn't just apply to older workers. We need to remove any potential barriers that might prevent young people at the start of their careers being confident in the future and having the self-belief and the ability to seek out, and do the kind of work they want."

"Acas is keen to ensure that employment and recruitment agencies get it right first time and give every job seeker equal access to employment opportunities and avoid the possible risk of being taken to an industrial tribunal with age discrimination claims."

Employment experts Acas have arranged 'Ageism is not fair' seminars which set out the business case for having an age diverse workforce and examine the detail of the legislation and its requirements to ensure that agencies and HR Departments are bang up-to-date. The next event is being held on 26th October at Acas Yorkshire and Humber, The Cube, Albion Street, Leeds LS2 8ER. The cost of ?130 includes lunch. To find out more call Tel 0113 205 3800 or email age-aware@acas.org.uk.