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90% unaware of employment law on age, finds survey

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According to a survey by Age Concern, 90% of Britones are unaware that it is currently legal under UK law for their employer to sack them on the grounds of their age. The charity is embarking on a major campaign to win business support to challenge ageism.

Nearly a third of over 50s are currently not in a full-time job. However they will constitute a third of the population by 2020, which at that rate of unemployment could have a deleterious effect on the UK economy.

The poll reveals how little the public know about UK employment law. On discovering that employment tribunals would throw out any unfair dismissal claims on the basis of age, 84% respondents supported plans to introduce age discrimination laws in the workplace. Nearly a third believe laws should be introduced as a matter of urgency.

The survey also revealed that 97% of Britons believed employers should rank ‘age’ as the least important criteria when recruiting a new member of staff. Factors like ability (57%) and a good track record (40%) were rated much higher.

Legislation to combat age discrimination in employment will be introduced by 2006 under an EU Directive. This will make it illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace on the grounds of age. The charity wants to work with business and government now to ensure the legislation is robust, whilst recognising that changing attitudes and cultures could take even longer.

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