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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
'Why we are banning ageism'
By Anne McGuire
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions

It can come as a surprise to many to learn that ageism is the most common form of discrimination in the workplace today.

Anne McGuire
The government is determined to stamp out ageism, says Anne McGuire

For too long people have found it difficult to get work, and been passed over for training and promotion, because of their age.

But many people, including employers, are unaware that the practice of ageism is also bad for business.

As an employer you could be increasing your recruitment and retention costs, and preventing yourself from getting and keeping the best person for the job.

The government is determined to tackle all forms of discrimination in the workplace, and is introducing legislation to protect the rights of workers regardless of criteria such as age.

The new laws

From 1 October, age discrimination in employment and vocational training will be outlawed.

If we are truly to succeed, the myths that drive age discrimination in the workplace must be dispelled
Anne McGuire

The new measures will apply to both the private and public sectors, and will cover every member of the workforce, young and old.

In short, all employers will be required to review their employment practices to ensure they are based on skills and competencies, rather than age.

So, for example, nobody will be allowed to recruit, train, promote or retire people on the basis of age, unless it can be objectively justified.

It is hugely important that employers are aware of these changes and that is why we have set up the Age Partnership Group (APG) Campaign.

One of the APG's responsibilities has been to draw up a list of top tips to help employers in advance of the legislation.

They include simple ideas such as removing age limits from recruitment advertisements, avoiding age "cut-offs" for promotion, offering training to employees of all ages, and agreeing a fair and consistent retirement policy.

New attitudes needed

These tips will go a long way in helping employers improve their employment practices. They will make things better for business and better for workers.

But advice like this, even when backed by legislation, can only go so far.

We must also do as much as possible to change attitudes, not just behaviour.

If we are truly to succeed, the myths that drive age discrimination in the workplace must be dispelled.

Those myths, along with the corresponding reality, were listed in recent research by the Health and Safety Laboratory.

Ridding ourselves of these myths and establishing more accurate and positive attitudes is another key objective of the APG campaign.

The group can provide all employers with a range of free information products to help them improve their understanding of age positive practices and to prepare for 1 October.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated.

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