Age discrimination must be top of the agenda

Age discrimination legislation due to be introduced next year could present companies with larger problems than sex, race or disability discrimination, according to a new study.

The research, commissioned by employment law experts Croner, reveals that ageist stereotypes exist in the workplace and employers need to address grass-roots culture change in time for the October 2006 deadline.

Participants of the study, all employees aged in their 30s to 50s, were unaware of age as a factor in workplace diversity. Ageism was considered more socially acceptable than other prejudices, such as race and religion.

Participants thought that certain jobs in their company came with an age tag, yet accepted this as the ‘way it has always been’ – even if they didn’t agree with this in principle.

Age discrimination is unique in discrimination legislation because it can affect anybody of any age, therefore all employment practices will need to be tested for any inherent ageism.

Christopher J Mellor, head of the Croner businesses, said: “Our exploratory study has shown we have a long way to go in addressing age-related prejudice and has highlighted the uniqueness and enormous scope of this legislation.

“Age is the poor relation in the diversity debate and ageism is worryingly not seen by employees as a workplace crime. Action to promote age diversity taken only by a few companies will not effectively alter the wider culture, and we hope our report will be helpful in establishing this issue onto boardroom agendas across the UK.”

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