Over 40? Watch your back

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A City of London employment lawyer warns that investment banks could be preparing to get rid of older employees in advance of new anti-ageism discrimination this October.

"Banks may well start looking to get rid of older employees in the next couple of months," says Gareth Brahams, a partner in the employment team at law firm Lewis Silkin. "They will probably target people they were thinking of parting company with anyway, but it would make sense for them to dismiss older people now, before the legislation takes effect."

From October 2006, businesses in the UK will be impacted by anti-age discrimination, making it illegal for them hire or fire people on the basis of their youth or hoariness. Lawyers and outplacement consultants say investment banks, with their preference for 20- and early 30-somethings, could be in the frontline for claims. And those claims will carry the possibility of unlimited compensation.

For example, Brahams says a 36-year old trader who can prove that all redundancies on his team impacted staff aged 35 and over could be in line for a multi-million pound compensatory payout.

"Anything beyond 40 is considered a bit old in investment banking terms," says Linda Jackson, managing director of Fairplace, an outplacement provider, which helps redundant City employees back to work. "The average person that we see is in his or her mid- to late-30s and early 40s," she adds.

So what can you do to avoid the chop before the new legislation comes into effect? One option may be to take a protracted sickie, although Brahams cautions that this may be difficult to sustain for a full six months. Another could be to work with the vigour of a new analyst, and stay in the office until at least 10pm every evening.

If you do fall foul of attempts to clean out the cupboards in advance of the new regulations, all will not be lost. If you can prove you were made redundant solely on the basis of age, you can sue for unfair dismissal, even before the October deadline.

Unfortunately however, compensation for unfair dismissal is capped below 60,000.

What do you think? Are banks institutionally ageist and will they try and dismiss older employees before the new legislation comes into force. Let us know what you think.

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