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Graduate milk round may be soured by new legislation

Published: Friday, 21 January 2005   Category: Graduate recruitment | Government policies

The milk round, the annual visit by big employers to Britain’s universities in search of graduate talent, is under threat because of new European age discrimination laws.

The traditional opportunity for university students to polish their shoes and their wits and present themselves to
Britain’s leading companies could contravene parts of the new law, due to be introduced in 2006.

According to one trade organisation, the majority of new graduates are in their early twenties, so the milk round may fall under the category of indirect discrimination.

Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies, said that IT companies, traditionally heavy recruiters of graduates, could fall foul of the new laws.

“If employers can’t justify why they need to recruit directly from universities, then it could be illegal for them to do so,” Ms Swain said. According to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, only 5.3 per cent of students graduating with IT degrees in 2003 were over 40 years old.

“While we are fully in favour of banning age discrimination, we are concerned at some of the practical consequences these laws may have and are seeking clarification from the Government.”

The new laws will be introduced in the
UK from October 1, 2006 and are part of the implementation of the EU’s directive on employment.

Dianah Worman, adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said that scrapping the milk round as a result of this law would be ludicrous.

“It’s not the milk round that’s bad. It is the prejudice of some of the employers who use it. Using the milk round sensibly, so that it becomes more inclusive, is what people should be thinking about.”

Tom Jones, partner at Thompsons Solicitors, the leading employment law firm, said: “Graduates can be of any age and increasingly are. We don’t see anything in the Act that would outlaw the milk round.”

Some commentators point to a need for employers to avoid referring to “young” graduates or using terms such as “vibrant” or “energetic”, which may be construed as denoting youth.

Source: ANGELA JAMESON www.timesonline.co.uk

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