Ruth Mitchell

It's official: age no longer an issue at work

With Business Link

It is now ability and not age that counts in the workplace. Regulations that came into effect at the beginning of October have been designed to combat age discrimination in employment and vocational training. Many assumptions about people - both young and old - are outdated and work against the interests of the individuals involved and the employer.

Indeed, research has indicated that ageism in employment is a costly exercise for business. Estimates of the cost to the economy of such discrimination range from £16 billion (Winning the Generation Game, Cabinet Office, 2000) to £31 billion (Ageism: Too Costly to Ignore, Employers Forum on Age, 2001) every year.

The new legislation provides for a default retirement age of 65. Compulsory retirement ages below 65 are unlawful unless objectively justified. In addition, employees have the right to request to work beyond that age. Employers have a duty to consider such requests.

Employers also need to check that there are no hidden age barriers in their selection and promotion processes - eg aim to place advertisements in publications read by a range of age groups and avoid using terms such as “mature”, “enthusiastic”, “highly experienced” or “recent graduate” which imply a particular age group. Redundancy procedures must also be based on business needs rather than age.

Employers looking for more information about the new legislation can seek help from Business Link. It can provide access to up-to-date information and answers to any questions about the regulations as well as put you in touch with an adviser who can work with you on any issues you may have.

For Business Link services in your local area, call 0845 600 9006 or visit

Business Link services in the North East are supported by the European Regional Development Fund, through the Government Office for the North East, and One NorthEast.

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