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Exclusive: Age discrimination "knows no bounds"

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Employers have been warned that although there are laws to protect elderly workers they will find it hard to find a remedy for the growing problem of ageing workforces.

Speaking at Unum's Age Old Concerns conference in London yesterday evening, Chris Ball, chief executive of TAEN (The Age and Employment Network), said: "Age discrimination legislation came into force in 2006 and we saw 2,000 claims in the first year. In 2007 there were three times more age discrimination claims than any other. Age seems to be the new disability and although there are legal mechanisms, it's a jolly sight harder to use them to get a result. Age discrimination knows no bounds."

He said older people looking for employment have an added challenge in comparison with younger staff. "Returning to the job market in mid-life is like rejoining a game of snakes and ladders left years before, only to discover the board is now covered by a nest of vipers and rungs of the ladders have rotted away since the last game."

Discussing the ‘inconvenient truth' of older people in the workplace, Alan Beazley, advice and policy specialist at The Employers Forum on Age, told delegates in order to get the best out of older workers, employers should value age diversity, consider implementing flexible retirement or flexible working policies that older staff will value.

He said there is a direct link between the productivity of older workers and the amount of training invested in them.

He added: "There is a lot for employers to gain by engaging with, and investing in, employees of all ages. The inconvenient truth of the older workforce can be confronted and its impact mitigated by questioning outmoded practices based on prejudice and stereotype."