Employers are not preparing for age legislation, with about two-thirds failing to develop any policies on ageism at work.
A survey of 1,500 employers found that only 39% were developing policies, and just one in four plan to introduce anything within the next 12 months.
More worryingly, 30% of those questioned had no plans at all to deal with forthcoming legislation that will make it illegal to turn down a candidate or refuse training, promotion or benefits on the grounds of age.
The Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI), developed by the Cranfield School of Management, the Daily Telegraph and Personnel Today, shows that hundreds of managers are unaware of the age problems facing the labour market.
One in five managers said they had no knowledge of population changes, while one in four said the ageing demographics would not have an impact on their organisation.
Shaun Tyson, professor of human resource management at Cranfield, said employers' awareness of age issues had not improved in the 15 months since the last poll, despite new laws on ageism scheduled for October 2006.
"There is a sizeable minority of employers for whom ageism is a non-issue," Tyson said. "They are making a big mistake. Attitudes towards age are not just about compliance with the law, but about the availability of high-quality people in the workforce."