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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Ageism 'endemic' in the workplace
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Ageism is still "endemic" in the UK workplace despite new laws coming into force last year, a study suggests.

Since the new laws came into force, more than 2,000 claims have been lodged with the Employment Tribunal Service, the Employers Forum on Age report said.

A poll by the group also found that 16 million people witnessed ageist practices at work last year.

The findings came despite figures showing 86% of Britons are aware it is illegal to discriminate on age grounds.

The new rules affect recruitment, training, promotion, redundancy, retirement, pay and pension provision.

'On the radar'

"This proves that the laws served a purpose in terms of getting ageism on the radar," said EFA chief executive Sam Mercer.

It is vital that we wake up to the fact that ageism affects people of all ages and is not just an issue for older people
Sam Mercer, EFA chief

"However, it is bad news for those employers who are still falling well short of the required standards of practice," Ms Mercer added.

A total of 1,000 people over the age of 16 were quizzed by GfK NOP for the EFA report.

Of those polled, 92% believed they should have the right to work for as long as they like if they are able to do their job but, one in five said their employer would force them to retire at 65.

The EFA called on employers to remove mandatory retirement ages, warning that if they failed to so, this would "inevitably lead to tension" between workers and companies.

Under the new laws, employees can work past the age of 65 if granted leave to do so by their employer. Should they be refused, then it must be for "objectively justified" reasons.

Commentators said the laws were even more important in wake of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showing how the UK's population is ageing.

Since the 1950s, the number of people aged 100 and over increased has at a faster rate than any other age group, to stand at a total of 9,000.

As sanitation, medicine, food and living standards improve, more people are living longer, the ONS said.

And while future numbers of centenarians will depend on birth and survival rates, the ONS estimates that the number of people over the age of 100 in the UK will hit 40,000 by mid-2031.

Young focus

But the new age laws have not just affected older people.

A third of those questioned had seen people being managed differently depending on their age, while 30% were aware of an older person getting paid more than a younger one for doing the same job.

"It is vital that we wake up to the fact that ageism affects people of all ages and is not just an issue for older people," Ms Mercer added.

The report comes as the British Youth Council is ncalling on the government to end the "deeply discriminatory" three-tier minimum wage system which it claims break the new ageism laws.

"BYC is campaigning for equal pay for equal work, regardless of age, and this is a human rights issue," said spokeswoman Jo Field.

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