Employers in the dark over age law proposals

Sep 03 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

UK managers are still unclear about the government's plans to introduce new

age discrimination laws, according to a new survey by recruitment specialists Kelly Services and the Employers Forum on Age (EFA).

The Ageism in business survey 2003 set out to investigate levels of

awareness of age discrimination and the 2006 age legislation among managers

of different ages, working for companies varying in size, industry type and

location. The survey is part of a project by Kelly Services and the EFA to

increase awareness of age discrimination issues among Kelly Services clients

and the recruitment industry.

The majority of those questioned were in favour of age discrimination

legislation in principle, but only a small minority (nine per cent) were

fully aware of the government's plans for introducing age legislation in

2006, while less than a fifth (18 per cent) knew about the main changes

proposed. Two thirds said they need more information on the proposed new

laws and over half of those questioned think that too little is still being

done to encourage employers to hire older staff.

When questioned about their knowledge of the proposed changes to the law, a

majority of managers appeared unsure about their possible impact. More than

three quarters (78 per cent) believe that the legislation will not change

the recruitment practices in their organisation, despite the fact that

recruitment is one of the most obvious areas set to be affected.

Managers are looking to the government to take practical action to inform

employers about the legislation and encourage businesses to recruit older

workers. Two thirds (64 per cent) want to see more training courses made

available to increase employability among older workers. Four in 10 (38 per

cent) want a high-profile government advertising campaign to promote the

advantages of recruiting older workers - perhaps indicating that previous

campaigns may not have had enough impact.

But the survey does suggest that positive messages about the business

benefits of recruiting older workers are being understood. Three quarters

(76 per cent) of managers questioned believe older workers bring experience

and loyalty to a job and 67 per cent think they are more reliable than

younger workers.

But age discrimination can swing both ways, and the survey reveals negative

perceptions of younger workers. Younger people were perceived by some

managers as being more likely to leave after being trained and are

potentially less reliable. Nearly one third of respondents said they would

feel more comfortable working for an older rather than a younger manager.

Chris Kelly, Managing Director of Kelly Services, says: "Despite what people

say, in practice many older workers find it difficult to secure an interview

let alone a job. However, it is good news to note that employers seem to be

waking up to the benefits of older workers. At the same time it is worrying

that young people may now be facing the same sort of age discrimination that

older workers have always faced."

Sam Mercer, Director of the Employers Forum on Age, says: "The results of

the survey show that although positive messages are getting through, ageist

stereotyping is still taking place throughout UK business. Employers need to

face up to the challenge and ensure they recruit according to ability not


The government will outlaw age discrimination in employment by 2006. The

second phase of the consultation is currently underway and will come to a

close this autumn.