Forty per cent of UK jobseekers believe they have been discriminated against when applying for work in the last five years, international research has found.
The Kelly Global Workforce Index sought the views of about 70,000 people in 28 countries, including almost 6,000 UK respondents.
The survey found 31% had experienced discrimination in their day-to-day working life.
The major source of discrimination identified by respondents was age, which was cited by 17%. This was followed by race (8%), gender (6%) and disability (2%).
More than half of workers aged 45 or older felt they had been discriminated against on the basis of their age. However, 16% of younger workers aged up to 24 also believed they were victims of age discrimination.
UK sectors with above average levels of discrimination included engineering, IT, transport, manufacturing and utilities.
However, the level of discrimination in the UK was found to be low by global standards. The country was ranked 25th on the list of 28 countries worldwide, and 14th among the 16 European countries in the survey.
In Europe, the highest rates of workplace discrimination were in Sweden, Hungary and Italy, while UK, Denmark and Luxembourg had the lowest.
Catherine King, managing director for Kelly Services, said: “At a time when we face an ageing population and skills shortages, many companies are putting obstacles in the way of hiring older people. As well as being devastating for individuals, this has resulted in organisations shutting off an important source of talent and diversity.
“The new anti-age legislation will undoubtedly help to turn the trend toward discriminating against certain age groups, and businesses that do not address these issues directly will do themselves considerable damage.”