Over-65s will have the same protection against unfair dismissal as younger workers, the government has said.
Age discrimination will be banned from October 2006
Forced retirement before the age of 65 and age discrimination in recruitment, promotion and training will be banned.
The measures will come into force on 1 October 2006, thus bringing UK laws into line with those in the USA and in most other European Union countries.
This will ensure the UK complies with the European employment directive on age discrimination.
Six months notice
Under the plans, employers will also have to consider requests from their employees to work after the age of 65.
If an employer wants a worker to retire at 65, they will have to give them six months notice.
"People need to be able to plan for their future and retirement should not come as an unexpected surprise," said Alan Johnson, Trade and Industry secretary.
"These regulations are an important step forward, ensuring individuals benefit from important new rights and opportunities while allowing business to operate productively and fairly."
But in response, David Willetts, the Conservative shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, stressed that under the government's proposals employers were still free to force workers into retirement at age 65.
"The Government's press release is seriously misleading. It implies that people aged over 65 will have the same rights on unfair dismissal as younger workers.
"However, the announcement today makes quite clear that 'retirement will not constitute unfair dismissal if it is on or after 65', so older people can in fact be dismissed in a way younger people cannot," Mr Willetts said.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is consulting with employers over the practical implications of the new measures.
"Industry will see this as yet another fetter on their ability to manage their employees as they see fit," said Mark Hunt, head of employment at international law firm Reed Smith.
"However, on the flip side, we are all going to have to work longer to pay for retirement and these rules set the ball rolling allowing greater flexibility."
The charity Age Concern accused the government of missing an opportunity to end forced retirement.
"In our ageing society, the economy will increasingly rely on the skills of older workers, yet thousands will continue to be shunted out of their jobs and denied the right to choose when to retire," Gordon Lishman, Age Concern's director general, said.
I am 58 and facing forced retirement at 60. I want to continue working, I actually enjoy what I do, and welcome the proposed legislation. I have tried to persuade my employer not to treat me as an "over-the-hill 50-something" but as a productive and energetic 20-something with 30 years work experience! So far no response.
Jon, Edinburgh, Scotland
Like many others of the same age, not 65 yet only 55, the discrimination is horrendous, I was passed over for promotion in favour of a 22 year old who could not even do percentages, and that was part of the job. It was made clear to me that I had to help and guide him but on half the salary... Legislation against ageism is badly needed.
Colin Jakeway, Manchester UK
This law is necessary as anyone over 45 will now have to work on beyond 65 due to Gordon Brown's plundering of their pension funds.
Ian, Newbury, Berkshire
It certainly is not right. It is neither good for the company or the employee. A company should seek to have employees who can perform the role required and add value for the benefit of shareholders - no other criterion is relevant.
Malcolm Allen, East Pennard, Shepton Mallet,Somerset.
Most firms do not want people over 65 (or even over 55) for all sorts of reasons unconnected with sound business sense. They will try to get around this law by discouraging people to stay on, using such means as allocating them boring, unfulfilling jobs, and awarding them low or zero annual pay increments. ...Ageism in the workplace is largely a conspiracy of the young for the benefit of the young. Older people who are already in top management positions are the only ones who can change it.
Peter, Basildon, Essex, UK
The company I worked for made one third of the workforce redundant, all but one over the age of 40. I predict that many more of us will be "let go" before the October 2006 deadline. Meanwhile, employers are complaining that younger workers are not literate or numerate. However, they seem unwilling to consider those of us who are simply because of our date of birth!
The age at which employers can force employees to retire should be increased to 70. Health has improved over the years, and people need to work longer due to the inadequacies of pensions.
Paul Clark, Aylesbury, Bucks
My father had a heart attack four weeks before his 65th birthday last year. He was working as a medium-sized buildings project manager and had told his employer that he wanted to work past 65 and they were more than happy to accommodate him. Following the heart attack and whilst recovering at home they wrote to him on his birthday and informed him they had retired him with no compensation. He's as fit as a fiddle now and looking for work and bitterly disappointed he wasn't allowed to carry on working.
Mark Thompson, Kent
I was forced to retire from a part-time job, not at 65 though but somewhat later. I was very aggrieved because in the job that I had I was working with other professional people and it was always on a par with younger colleagues... In my opinion, no employee should be forced to retire on the grounds of age only. That is an insult to one's dignity and a deprivation of one's rights.
Dr. Vincent Mansueto, Chatham, Kent.
I have been discriminated against on the basis of my age since I was 40. Time and time again, employment agencies have openly stated that the employer was rejecting my application on the basis of my age.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, Somerset, UK
In the white collar sector, it is virtually impossible to get employment agencies to put your CV forward to employers if you are over 50. Interviews are few and far between compared to a younger job seeker.
C.Davies, Shoreham by Sea UK
When I was "offered" Early Release (i.e., redundancy) at age 48, in 1994, I was told, by a senior manager, that in 10 years time there would be no one over 50 working for the firm ( a major British firm).
Ray Stewart, Colchester, Essex