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Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt today published a ...
Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt today published a

consultation document on proposals to outlaw age discrimination in

the workplace by October 2006.

The government is consulting on how the UK should implement the EU

Employment Directive which prohibits age discrimination in employment

and vocational training.

The document 'Age Matters' seeks views on a range of specific policy

aims including:

- The abolition of employers' mandatory retirement ages (dismissal at

a given age) unless employers can objectively justify them

- The possibility of a default retirement age of 70, at which

employers could retire employees

- Proposed legitimate aims which employers, exceptionally, could use

to help justify the retention of a small number of age-related


- Changes to the legislation regarding unfair dismissal and


Ms Hewitt, also cabinet minister for the Women and Equality Unit,


'Age discrimination is the last bastion of lawful unfair

discrimination in the workplace and it will be outlawed.

'In particular we must challenge the ageist assumption that younger

employees make the best workers. It is a sad fact that thousands of

people in their 40's and 50's who have been made redundant never work


'It is vital that we widen the pool of workers so that employers can

make the most of the full range of talent and skills available.

Research suggests that age discrimination costs the UK £16bn a


'But this legislation is not about forcing people to work longer. It

will provide more choice and flexibility for those who wish to stay

in work in their 50's and 60's.

'Many businesses in the UK already recognise that equality and

diversity is good for individuals and good for business, and we will

provide further detailed guidance and support for business in the

run-up to implementation.

'We intend to have regul ations in place, but not in force, by the end

of 2004. This will provide all those affected plenty of time to

prepare for the changes before the legislation comes into force at

the end of 2006.'

The consultation will run until 20 October 2003 and seek views from a

broad range of stakeholders.

Everyday examples of age discrimination in employment that will be

outlawed by legislation in 2006 include:

- an employer telling all employees that they are too old to go on

training programmes. This is because they don't learn as well as

younger people and that from now on, people in their twenties and

thirties will be prioritised for training;

- an employer setting a mandatory retirement age at 60, because they

want to attract new blood into the organisation and keep the

profile of their workers young. He says that older workers are

less creative and 'stuck in their ways';

- an employer stating that they want to recruit a 'mature and

reliable candidate' and that they will only accept applications

from people over 30 years of age;

- a bar or a fashion store advertising for young and energetic sales

people. They want to recruit someone who fits in with the age

profile of their customers, and believe that young people are more

likely to buy their goods if served by someone young.


1. The consultation document is available on the DTI website.

2. The government took an active role in negotiating the European

Employment Directive which was adopted in November 2000 (2000/78/EC).

The Employment Directive provides a common framework of protection

against discrimination at work on the new grounds of age, sexual

orientation, and religion or belief.

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