Age laws may force KPMG to axe perk

KPMG may be forced to scrap its travel insurance benefit through fear that it could breach the new age discrimination regulations.

At the time that Employee Benefits went to press, the benefit was available to all employees up to the age of 65 years through the company’s flexible benefits scheme, and was in danger of being deemed discriminatory, as KPMG’s insurance provider was refusing to increase the age limit beyond 70 years.

Cheryl Curtis, reward manager, said: "We had a talk with our suppliers about age discrimination [regulations] and there is a mismatch between what the market is offering and what we feel is being legally enforced."

As the accountancy firm employs a small number of staff over the age of 70 years, Curtis admitted that it could be held in breach of the legislation if the policy was not revised.

"We do not want to say ‘you can’t have this benefit if you are over a certain age’, but [our providers may force us to do this]. An awful lot of people use the benefit and to pull it would affect our employees," added Curtis.

Elizabeth Slattery, partner at law firm Lovells, said: "An employer could attempt to objectively justify, or bear the cost of self insurance, but pulling the scheme would be the only sure fire way to be clear of discriminating [against staff]."

Yet the Association of British Insurers (ABI) believes that insurance providers have been placed in a difficult position, simply because insurance is based on risk assessment, so the older an employee is, the higher the risk.

A spokesperson for the ABI, explained: "It is really not a question of age discrimination, it is a question of risk assessment. Age affects insurance and it is more expensive to cover older travellers. Where group insurance is concerned, there should be brokers who can find policies that cover all ages."