Age discrimination laws 'won't work'

23-09-2006

New legislation tightening up laws preventing age discrimination may not be effective in tackling the problem of age discrimination, a lobbyist has warned.

Kate Jopling, policy manager at the Help the Aged charity, told the Today programme this morning that more public awareness is required to make people aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding age discrimination in the workplace.

Her comments follow a survey commissioned by Help the Aged which suggests the success of the legislation may be hindered by some well-entrenched social attitudes towards older people.

This showed that a quarter of those aged 55 to 64 believed they would not be able to work beyond the age of 65 because of age discrimination, and demonstrated that there existed "a huge lack of awareness that the law is about to change".

"Under half of the people we surveyed knew that new laws were coming in in just over a week," Ms Jopling said.

"We have seen some forward thinking employers going out there and actively recruiting older workers, and really seeing business benefits from that. We also know from recent work that was done by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Department of Trade and Industry that a lot of employers are still engaging in what they call risky practice, and what we would probably call age discrimination.

She went on: "We've seen an aging population for quite some time now, and we really do need to catch up with that in terms of recognising that the older potential workforce is out there, but also that our consumer base is getting older.

"Frankly if we're going to do good business in the modern world, we need to reflect that new ageing population."

Asked what she believes needs to be done to help change people's attitudes towards age discrimination and help them understand their new rights and responsibilities under the new laws, Ms Jopling said: "I think in the next week or so the government and charities like Help the Aged have got to get out there and make sure people do know this change is coming.

"We also then need rigid enforcement of the new legislation to really make sure businesses know they've got to catch up with the change that's happened."

The government's new employment laws are set to be implemented on October 1st.


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