Ageism limits opportunity for both the young and old

Ageism has become such a problem in the UK that the average worker has a
window of just five years in which they are deemed neither too old nor too
young by employers.

New research shows that staff are seen as too young at the age 35, but too
old by 40, while a fifth of all employees have been discouraged from a
potential role because of age restrictions.

Evidence from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
and the Department for Work and Pensions shows that age prejudice is much worse
for staff over the age of 40 – although one in 12 of under-35s have also been
discriminated against.

Dianah Worman, a diversity expert at the CIPD, warned employers to start
changing their ways or risk legal action when European legislation banning
ageism comes into force in 2006.

Under the new laws employers will be acting illegally if age prejudice
affects recruitment decisions and Worman warned firms to start preparing for
the changes immediately.

"Waiting for legislation will be too late, and may leave companies
exposed to legal risks," she said. "Employers will need an
understanding of how to manage, recruit, reward, train and motivate employees
across all age ranges."

Sam Mercer, director of the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) said the results
highlighted the extent of the problem and pointed out that people of all ages
suffered discrimination.

"This highlights the extent of the problem and employers should
urgently review policies and remove age barriers. It’s not just about
recruitment, but everything a company does with its people, so organisations
must start moving on it now," she said.

In an exclusive interview with Personnel Today last week, pensions minister
Malcolm Wicks said the problem of ageism – which he compared to racial or
sexual discrimination – was growing across the workplace.

By Ross Wigham

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