The government should make it a legal requirement for employers to promote age equality in the same way that they have a duty to promote race equality, according to a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
Less than two weeks before the Governmentís consultation on age discrimination is due to close, the IPPR calls for abolition of mandatory retirement and says that Government proposals to tackle ageism at work will not do enough to challenge age stereotypes and enable people to continue working.
Current proposals will allow people to challenge age discrimination but employers will not be required to promote age equality, it complains.
The institute points to research carried out for the report to support its argument. Almost nine out of ten of the 1,000 people questioned by ICM for its survey thought that legal protection from ageism should be as strong, or stronger, than existing protection from racism or sexism.
Currently the average retirement age is only 61, but average life expectancy is 77 and rising. By 2014 there will be more people over 65 than under 16. One third of people over 50 but below state pension age are not in work.
More than seven out of ten people also say that the Government should not exempt public services like the NHS from the new law, a figure the IPPR seizes on to call for the proposed age discrimination law to be extended to cover public services
Sarah Spencer, IPPR Senior Associate and co-author of the report said that "older people should not have to complain their way to equality. Employers should have a responsibility to take active steps to promote age equality to drive the culture change that is needed. We need a more pro-active, less confrontational approach that focuses on prevention not litigation."
And she added that there would also be strong public support for effective measures to tackle the pervasive ageism not only in jobs but also in services.
"As people live longer and remain healthier into their later years they want to have the choice to continue working, without being forced to step down from jobs they enjoy and that they, and the economy, benefit from."