Only one in 25 organisations employs anyone aged over 65 on its staff, new research shows, despite the fact that the older generation will be vital if the mounting skills crisis in the workforce is to be defused in future.
A survey of personnel managers published on November 15 by Fish4jobs.com shows that nearly three quarters of companies have a mandatory retirement age, most of them forcing workers to retire at 65.
When it comes to recruitment, 75 per cent employers regard age as a factor, and more than half admit they would feel suspicious of an applicant who did not state his or her age on a C.V.
But with their pensions losing value and with more people living into a healthy old age, senior workers may be less keen to accept retirement.
In July, a survey by the Employers Forum on Age uncovered a "Generation Flex" of people willing to help defuse the demographic time bomb ticking under British business by extending their working lives. An overwhelming 93 per cent of employees would be happy to extend their working lives - but only if employers respond to their changing needs.
The current focus on youth recruitment is misguided, according to Simon Devitt, director of Fish4jobs: "With fewer under 35s in the workplace, it's impractical for employers to gear their recruitment policy to the young.
"Many organisations that actively encourage the over 50s to apply for positions have found that they are a real asset, bringing years of experience to the job."
Only one in five businesses practise "age positive" employment policies, the survey showed.
But this may have to change in the next few years, when EU legislation will make it easier for workers to bring cases of age discrimination before an industrial tribunal, Mr Devitt said.
"Employers need to eliminate any traces of ageism from their recruitment practices," he added.
Fish4jobs' research was conducted in October among 500 personnel managers in the public and private sectors.