Grant Thornton has overhauled a number of its benefits policies in order to comply with new age discrimination legislation, which came into effect last month.
Criteria limiting private medical insurance to employees aged 25 years and over has been scrapped. Instead, it will now be offered to staff with more than two years’ service or who hold a recognised professional qualification.
Its cap on life assurance cover has also been extended from 60 to 65 years.
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Jenny Balme, national director of HR operations, added that the accountancy firm has also introduced a retirement age of 65 years. Before October, it had no contractual retirement age. “People tended to think that 60 or 65 [years] was the retirement age anyway. The legislation has challenged us to think about whether or not it makes sense to have a retirement age and we felt it makes sense to have it at age 65,” she explained.
The firm also improved its maternity and paternity pay conditions from October in order to offer above the statutory rates.
Employees are now entitled to six weeks paid maternity leave at 90% of salary, followed by 13 weeks at 50%. In addition, mothers receive a return-to-work bonus of one month’s salary payable when they return.
After this period, employees who choose to take additional leave will be paid at the statutory maternity rate.
Under new paternity terms, the company will pay employees’ full salary for up to two weeks. “It’s something we’ve been looking at for a while. We wanted to reinforce our family-friendly policies,” said Balme.
But she added that the changes were not made in response to the enhancement of statutory levels due to come into effect next April as part of the Work and Families Act.
Other employers have taken protective measures in relation to the recent legislative changes. Industrial textiles company Don & Low has been forced to justify its policy on employer-funded medicals for staff. Paul Leigh, HR manager, said: Anyone aged over 50 [years] has one every two years and if you are under 50, it is every four years. We consulted with Bupa, which carries out these medicals, and they gave us written justification why they thought it was a reasonable policy.”
It has similarly justified its, long-service awards and discretionary sick pay scheme. “We have taken the view that we believe those terms and conditions actively encourage loyalty and motivation. We have beefed up one or two measurement systems which, if we were challenged on the issue, could demonstrate our belief these length of service-based systems motivate and help retain staff.”
However, the company has reworded its redundancy policy to remove references to length of service as criteria for selection.