HC Deb 02 May 1995 vol 259 cc142-4W
Mr. Welsh

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) if he will investigate the extent to which ageism and age discrimination is acting as a barrier to the 40-plus age group in accessing(a) retraining schemes and (b) United Kingdom and European funding to set up 40-plus employment initiatives; [22054]

(2) what further steps he is taking to counter ageism and age discrimination in the workplace; and if he will make a statement; [22048]

(3) if he will investigate the extent to which ageism and age discrimination are contributing towards long-term unemployment among the 40-plus age group; and if he will make a statement; [22050]

(4) what steps his Department is taking to discourage employers from placing employment advertisements in the national press which specifically request applicants for supervisory, managerial, technical and professional employment from the specific age group 25 to 35 years; and if he will make a statement; [22052]

(5) which laws in the United Kingdom protect people from ageism in the workplace; and what assessment has he made as to the scope for those persons who feel they have been victims of age discrimination to seek legal redress at appropriate levels; [22053]

(6) what assessment he has made of the extent to which long term unemployment among the 40-plus age group is directly attributable to the prevalence of age discrimination; and if he will make a statement; [22049]

(7) what is the total annual cost to his Department of initiatives designed to investigate or tackle the incidence of age discrimination in the workplace; and if he will make a statement. [22051]

Miss Widdecombe

The Government are conducting a vigorous campaign, which I lead, urging employers to recruit, train and retain workers on merit, regardless of age. The "Getting On" booklet, published in March 1994, is aimed specifically at employers. We published a further booklet, "Too Old…who says?", in January this year, which offers help and advice to older people seeking work or training. The campaign is supported by an advisory group, which I chair, consisting of people with a wide experience of industry and with the problems of age discrimination in employment.

Surveys suggest that ageist practices in recruitment and retention are contributing to the difficulties of older workers. However, there are no barriers preventing the 40-plus age group accessing retraining schemes. The proportion of people aged 51 and over on adult training programmes has steadily increased over the last four years. Training for work, the main training programme, is open to unemployed people up to the age of 63, making it possible for older workers to enhance their skills and make best use of their potential. Access to funding in the UK and through the European social fund for employment initiatives is open to people of all ages with selection on merit. There are several instances where funding has been granted to older workers to set up their own initiatives.

My campaign specifically encourages employers to drop the use of age limits in all advertisements and recruitment. Indeed, it is the first step outlined in the

ILO unemployed by age, gender and duration of unemployment
Great Britain Autumn 1994 Thousands
Age All ILO unemployed Less than 6 months 6 months to 1 year 1–2 years More than 2 years
All persons
35–39 235 85 42 35 74
40–49 408 140 62 78 128
50–59 329 90 48 63 128
60–65 88 17 1 22 40
35–39 156 43 29 26 58
40–49 255 74 35 50 95
50–59 230 58 34 41 96
60–65 74 13 1 19 34
35–39 79 42 13 8 15
40–49 153 66 27 27 33
50–59 100 32 14 22 32
60–65 13 1 1 1 1
1 Estimates below 10,000.


labour force survey—not seasonally adjusted.

"Getting On" booklet. Staff in Employment Service jobcentres have been given clear guidance to challenge the need for age limits on any vacancies they receive and to try to persuade employers to consider jobseekers only on their merits.

As for the legal position, employees who believe their dismissal or selection for redundancy was solely on grounds of age can already bring a complaint of unfair dismissal to an industrial tribunal, subject to the normal two-year qualifying period. However, the Government do not believe that more general legislation is the solution. Indeed, this would be as ineffective as it has been shown to be in other countries and would also increase burdens on business, possibly hampering the creation of new jobs. The way forward is through persuasion and voluntary means.

Finally, in 1994–95 the cost to the Employment Department of activities related to the campaign, including the booklets and research undertaken but excluding internal staff costs, was just over £300,000.

Forward to