Public sector employers are ahead of the game when it comes to implementing anti-ageist policies, a new survey claims.
The research, carried out for social care recruiter, Celsian, questioned almost 400 social care workers in the public sector, accountants and lawyers in professional practice and sales professionals in commerce and industry - all under the age of 35.
The survey found that almost two-thirds of social care workers felt their general promotional prospects were equal to those of a colleague aged over 35, and less than half felt their career would be adversely affected if they found themselves on the jobs market over the age of 40.
By contrast, in the private sector, more than 80 per cent of accountants and lawyers rated their prospects as better than those of a colleague over the age of 35, and almost three-quarters felt they would be over-the-hill if they found themselves back in the jobs market at 40.
A European Union directive requires all 15 EU member states to introduce legislation prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination at work on the grounds of age by 2006.
Juliet Marsh, director of social care at Celsian, said she welcomed the idea of legislation.
"As recruiters, we have to supply what our clients ask for. Unfortunately, the criteria sometimes includes youth. When this is legislated against, it will make our job easier," she said.
The report found that most respondents in both the public and private arena supported the introduction of anti-ageism legislation.
More than 70 per cent of social care professionals said they would also like to see mature staff being actively encouraged to pursue further training and qualifications. Almost 80 per cent said they would welcome the abolition of the retirement age.
By Quentin Reade