Ruth Mitchell

Workers unaware of new ageism laws

Millions of UK workers are unaware of new ageism laws which come into force on 1 October, a survey suggests.

The Employers Forum on Age survey of 1,000 people aged over 16 found that 50% did not know ageism in the workplace would soon be outlawed. It also revealed that 61% of respondents knew of behaviour they considered to be ageist where they worked. Evidence was also found that both young and old could lose out in areas such as pay and promotion because of their age.

Sam Mercer of the Employers Forum on Age said, “Ageism is endemic in our society and rife in our workplaces. “These attitudes need to be challenged and outlawed so that they become as unacceptable as sexism or racism. “This legislation will help provide protection for people who feel that they have been discriminated against on grounds of their age.”

One of the biggest changes that will be brought in under the new laws is that employers will not be able to impose compulsory retirement before 65. At the moment many employers state that 60 is their standard retirement age. Whether or not compulsory retirement should be kept at the new level of 65, or be abolished altogether, will be formally reviewed by the government in 2011.

Even though a growing pensions crisis means that many people will have to work for longer, a separate survey of 1000 workers by Help the Aged found that 25% of those aged between 55 and 64 felt firms would not employ them beyond 65. According to the charity, the UK has “a serious job to do” in making sure that older workers who are forced to retire before 65, or refused promotion or work because of their age, realise that they can take action against their employers.

Help The Aged spokeswoman Kate Jopling said: “While the new regulations will make a difference, it’s regrettable that the government has seen fit to continue to allow employers to force people to retire at 65.”

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