Mandatory retirement ages should be scrapped and employees able to choose when they retire, according to a report published by the Employers Forum on Age and AGR (the Association of Graduate Recruiters).
Graduating to Age Legislation -commissioned on behalf of the DTI as part of its consultation on age legislation - examines the views of more than 600 recent graduates across the UK. It reveals that more than half (54 per cent) of UK graduates say that mandatory retirement should be abolished and employees should be able to choose when they retire. Only one in three (33 per cent) believe that removing mandatory retirement ages will block opportunities for young people entering the job market.
But when asked about particular recruitment scenarios in which it is legitimate to use age, there are conflicting views. Two-thirds (64 per cent) believe that a youth club should be able to advertise for someone in the 20-25 age group to work with young people, and close to three-quarters (71 per cent) argue that a teenage fashion clothes shop should be able to recruit someone from a specific age group who relates to their customers, thereby increasing sales. Yet when asked about older workers, just one in three (37 per cent) agree that a company selling financial products to the over 50s should be able to recruit only those aged 50+ as sales staff.
Sam Mercer, campaign director of the Employers Forum on Age, says: 'While the government's consultation on age legislation is keen to identify circumstances when making decisions based on age might be justified, our findings reveal real confusion among graduates when questioned about what should and shouldn't be allowed. This illustrates not only the difficulties that government face in trying to implement workable legislation, but also the difficulty that businesses will have in implementing cultural change within the workplace.'
More than eight in ten (81 per cent) also argue that age should not play a role in deciding whether someone is promoted, and more than half (51 per cent) did not feel an employer should have the right to refuse training if the employee is due to retire shortly. Almost three in five (57 per cent) believe that graduate recruitment schemes should not specify a maximum entry age.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of AGR, says: 'These graduates are likely to be the UK's future business leaders and managers, and I am encouraged that they see the value of the proposed legislation. However, it is also clear that some stereotypical images do exist and improvements in age awareness understanding is required to overcome them.'
The Government will outlaw age discrimination in employment by 2006. The first phase of the consultation - to establish where making decisions based on age may be justified - ended in March 2002. Stage two of the consultation will begin this autumn.