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Meg Peppin

MP Partnership

Founder And Director

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Book Review: Age discrimination – Ageism in employment and service provision by Malcolm Sargeant

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Malcolm Sargeant is professor of labour law at Middlesex University and could be considered an authority on the subject of employment and discrimination legislation.

He has published four books as well as many papers on the topic, has been a speaker at international conferences and also worked on a broad range of international projects to educate people in and increase their awareness of such matters.
 
Sargeant’s book is a comprehensive exposition of changes to ageism legislation and explores the consequences of these changes and their implications for employers and service providers. The work is a successor to an earlier title published in 2007 and contains new research findings. 
 
In this one, Sargeant also considers the implications of the Equality Act 2010 and the possibility of whether the law makes age discrimination in everything from facilities to goods and services unlawful.     
 
The book comprises eight chapters, each of which deal with a different element of the age discrimination issue based on comprehensive research and analysis.
 
Chapters include: age discrimination at work; age discrimination and facilities; goods and services; regulation in the UK; The EU and international perspectives; retirement and multiple discrimination. Each chapter builds on the previous one and can be referenced separately.
 
In the introduction, Sargeant refers to the United Nations’ definition of ageism: “Ageism reinforces a negative image of older persons as dependent people with declines in intellect, cognitive and physical performance. Older persons are often perceived as a burden, a drain on resources, and persons in need of care. Ageism is primarily an attitude of mind which may lead to age discrimination”.
 
He also points to a 1994 survey of 500 companies, which revealed that 43% believed that people aged 55 would be too old to employ.
 
Factual explanation
 
A consultation to challenge ageism started in 1997 and the book takes us through subsequent consultations and arguments for and against regulation in the area. Case studies and a detailed examination of the provisions of the Equalities Act 2010 are also provided as well as the implications for employers, service providers and society.
 
While Sargeant is clearly committed to challenging assumptions and eradicating age related discrimination, the book is less of a polemic and more a factual explanation of the history of how age discrimination became a legislative issue and a description of the subsequent laws and regulation around it. 
 
This explanation is set against a backdrop of demographic change and looks at the implications of seeing the 60+ population grow while the younger population declines. Sargeant draws together information from extensive research and pulls out key facts for the reader to consider, bringing an international perspective to the issue too. 
 
He explores the projected drop in the number of young adults – a 8.2% fall in the UK – and the expected increase in the over sixties – a 43.6% rise in the UK – and the implications of such demographic shifts between 1995 and 2025.     
 
But Sargeant also investigates the issue of age discrimination against young people – for example, in the EU, unemployment is just as high among the 15 to 24 age group as it is for 55 to 64 year olds.  
 
The range of data presented in this book makes for compelling reading and provides both depth and breadth of coverage of the subject. The work is written in jargon-free language and provides tables, bullet points and short paragraphs in order to help the reader navigate through it.
 
There is a lot to digest, however, and some end-of-chapter summarising/beginning-of-chapter signposting would have been helpful.
 
This is an essential book for strategists, HR practitioners, business leaders, service providers and, in fact, anyone who is interested in how the demographics of our society are changing in relation to age. There is a great deal of information here, so it could serve as a legal reference guide, a useful resource when developing training and awareness initiatives or simply as an educational tool. 
 
It is no easy read, but it is not addressing an easy topic. We all need to educate ourselves on this subject and this book is a rich resource from which to draw.
 
 
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Meg Peppin

Founder And Director

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