Britons in the dark on age legislation

2006

Despite extensive publicity and dire predictions that a tidal wave of age-relegated litigation is about to break over the country's employers, half of Britons are still unaware that age discrimination will become illegal on the 1 October.

But if the survey of 1,000 workers by the Employers Forum on Age is to be believed, ageism remains rife in UK workplaces, with four out of 10 people saying that they had worked for an employer who treated people doing the same job differently depending on their age.

In almost a third of cases, however, this discrimination took the form of younger workers being paid less than older colleagues for doing the same role.

Almost a quarter also felt that a younger person in their workplace being overlooked for promotion in favour of an older person, regardless of the level of experience they had.

Similarly, more than a quarter said that they had seen someone being employed because they were of a similar age to their colleagues, to ensure "a good team fit".

Sam Mercer, director of EFA said: "As our research has confirmed, ageism is endemic in our society and rife in our workplaces. These attitudes need to be challenged so that they become as unacceptable as sexism or racism."

"It's down to us all as individuals to challenge our own ageist beliefs and ensure that particularly at work, we make judgements based on skills and ability rather than age," she said.

The research also revealed some deep-seated attitudes about the 'perfect age' group - if any - for a number of professions, with six out of 10 saying that the ideal age for a flight attendant is under 30 and seven out of 10 that the ideal age for a judge is over 40.

Four out of 10 felt that the ideal age for a CEO is between 41 and 50 years, with a mere three per cent viewing those under 30 as suitable for the top job. .

According to Sam Mercer, the forthcoming age discrimination legislation is the beginning of a process to change in attitudes.

"We all have a lot of work to do to ensure ageism becomes a thing of the past. Now that the legislation is here, both employers and individuals need to catch up fast on what it means for them and their workplace," she said.