Legislation proposed on age discrimination

In early 2001, the Danish Minister of Labour announced proposals to prohibit age discrimination at work through legislation. This is the main change in Danish law required by the new EU equal treatment Directive, which bans discrimination on grounds of of religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

The Minister of Labour, Ove Hygum, is currently considering how Denmark is to implement the new EU Directive (2000/78/EC) of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (EU0010274F) He would have preferred that the Directive - which prohibits discrimination on grounds of of religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation - were implemented by means of collective agreements, as is the tradition in Denmark for the regulation of labour market conditions (DK0001164F). However, in this case supplementary legislation is necessary if the prohibition of discrimination is to be 100% effective.

The main change required by the new Directive in Denmark relates to age discrimination, which is not covered by the present anti-discrimination Act. However, the Minister of Labour has stated that he is keen to address this issue, finding it highly discriminatory that, in job advertisements, many enterprises openly seek young employees although age is clearly not an important criterion in relation to the qualifications required for the job. If an employer recruits only people in, for example, the 25-35 age group without any objective reason, this is a clear violation of the Directive, he says. Although the deadline for implementing the new Directive is not until 2003, the Minister sees no reason for waiting until then.

The Danish anti-discrimination Act currently states: "For the purpose of this Act discrimination shall be taken to mean any direct or indirect discrimination on the ground of race, colour of the skin, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation or national, social or ethnic origin." The Minister proposes amending this definition to include age as an illegal grounds for discrimination. The amended legislation would also state: "This Act shall not apply to the extent that similar protection against discrimination follows from a collective agreement." However, as not all collective agreements contain specific provisions on age it will be necessary to implement the EU Directive by means of a combination of collective agreements and legislation, says Mr Hygum.

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