CC, Simmons banish PQE to stay within age rules

Clifford Chance

and Simmons & Simmons have revamped their recruitment strategies after deeming the term ‘PQE’ to be in contravention of the new age discrimination laws that came into play yesterday (1 October).

The measures being introduced by both firms follow the implementation of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, which prevent employers from using age as a recruitment criteria.

Simmons graduate recruitment manager Vicky Chamberlain said: “We’re in the process of putting in place a competency framework, which will overtake the whole reference to PQE.”

Other firms are examining ways of better defining skills when they advertise vacancies in order to take the emphasis off the length of time a solicitor has been qualified for.

Lovells HR director Kay Willis told The Lawyer: “The law is designed to be age-neutral. The challenge that we have is that it’s designed to protect older and younger people.”

HR directors at the UK’s top 10 firms have been spending up to 18 months examining their internal policies in order to make sure they are compliant with the new legislation. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is renaming its graduate recruitment department ‘trainee solicitor recruitment’ to avoid any ageist connections with the term ‘graduate’.

Freshfields is one of many firms getting rid of the requirement for a date of birth on application forms – something that supermarket giant Asda also introduced recently.

Meanwhile, firms have also been reviewing policies for more senior staff and lawyers, including whether lockstep is still permissible.

Allen & Overy partner Richard Turnor, who has been advising firms on how to comply with the legislation, said: “In order to justify lockstep, you have to have thought through how the lockstep meets or doesn’t meet business needs.”