Research by business advisers PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Milton Keynes office reveals that the top two concerns for businesses are the retirement process and dealing with the pension-related aspects of the legislation.

The DTI’s announcement that the pensions provisions of the regulations will not come into force until December 1 is therefore likely to be a welcome reprieve to local companies, said Robbie Wigley-Jones, head of human resources services at PWC’s office in Central Milton Keynes.

From October 1, it became illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of age. The regulations will impact on a people issues including employee benefits, retirement age, recruitment and redundancy practices. The regulations regarding pensions have recently been deferred until December 1 2006.

Mr Wigley-Jones (pictured) said: “The deferral on pensions underlines just how complicated the new age discrimination rules are and the problems that are being encountered in practically applying them. It gives cause for concern that so many employers are still facing difficulties in preparing for the legislation.

“Managing the retirement process will represent a whole new world under these regulations and falling foul of the new requirements could result in employees being awarded compensation equivalent to eight weeks salary. In fact litigation levels surrounding these new regulations could be significant. When similar regulations were introduced in Ireland, litigation in this area represented one fifth of all employment claims.”

The survey found that one of the challenges those responsible for HR matters face is potential complacency within the boardroom.

Mr Wigley-Jones said: “Our experience tells us that employers have still not appreciated the increased costs to their business of having employees remain beyond their normal retirement age. One obvious example is where employees should continue to receive the same benefits post the age of 65 that they received before 65, for instance life assurance.

“Businesses need to focus on these issues and the potential cost implications now to avoid problems in the future.”

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