Ageing workforce is biggest challenge facing Britain

Sep 05 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Britain's ageing population is the single biggest challenge facing the UK economy over the course of the next decade, a new survey of businesses has found.

The warning has come as a conference in Ireland has suggested that age discrimination is now the third most common type of claim made against an employer there, just a month ahead of similar legislation being introduced in the UK.

The internet survey on business attitudes to the UK's ageing population was carried out by the University of Nottingham's Institute for Enterprise and Innovation.

The survey also found that fuel shortages and skills shortages were the next biggest worries for business over the next 10 years.

In a separate development, Irish law firm A&L Goodbody carried out a survey of recent discrimination cases in Ireland and found that age-related cases now for more than 10 per cent of all cases taken under Irish equality law.

Kathryn Matthews, a member of A&L's employment law group, said: "In most cases, the complainant is an older person claiming that they have been treated less favourably than a younger colleague."

Age discrimination legislation has been a reality in Ireland for the past eight years, but will only come into force in the UK in October.

Already some employment lawyers are predicting a flood of cases against employers, with some arguing that the new laws could eventually be more influential in terms of changing attitudes and workplace culture than the sex discrimination laws of the 1970s onwards.

Matthews stressed that employers needed to adopt transparent and consistent recruitment and promotion processes to prevent age discrimination.

It was fundamental they avoided stereotyping job candidates or existing employees on the grounds of their age, she added.