Skills shortages will cure age prejudices

debate about whether age discrimination is best tackled through the voluntary
route or legislation will drag on as the Government hammers out the details on
how to translate the  European directive
outlawing age discrimination into UK law. In reality, however, the debate is
already dead in the water.

on workplace age discrimination is coming whether employers like it or not. In
two separate forums last week, employers were given a clear message that if they
wanted to avoid the big stick of employment tribunals their best course of
action was to get their houses in order now.

opportunities minister Margaret Hodge urged employers at a CIPD meeting to
embrace the law, while speakers at the Employers’ Convention in Brighton, run
by law firm Eversheds, put the business case for anti-ageist policies to an
audience of HR professionals.

Hodge admitted that previous discrimination legislation had been of limited
effect because employers had failed to embrace it.

experience shows that legislation takes a very long time to change attitudes
and practices -if it ever does. There is no reason to believe that fears of
legal payouts and bad publicity will act as much of a spur to employers entrenched
in practices that discriminate on the basis on age.

for them, though, the impact of the law will be small fry compared to the
impact on competitiveness if companies fail to exploit older members of the
workforce. The real driver will be skills shortages and demographics.

professionals are playing a major part in overhauling work practices in those
organisations which are ahead of the game. Others would do well to follow.

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