While the Labour Party reiterated its intention to introduce a law banning age dis- crimination, a leading British recruitment firm declared outright opposition to legislation.
Alec Reed, chairman of Reed Personnel Services, said he opposed more recruitment law and argued skill shortages were growing so fast that the problem would "solve itself".
However, Ian McCartney, Labour's employment spokesman, said Labour's plans were "focusing minds" throughout industry. There was still a need to outlaw age discrimination, just as previous statute had banned sexual and racial prejudice.
"The issue is not sorting itself out. It's one of the biggest post bags the Labour Party gets. A new law will underpin cultural change."
The strong difference of opinion emerged as agencies covering 90 per cent of the recruitment market refused to handle advertisements where clients insisted on age limits.
The initiative was announced at a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Third Age Programme which campaigns on behalf of active over-50s who may have retired, but who can still make a contribution to the economy and society.
The announcement by staff agencies comes in the wake of growing pressure from interest groups, but also amid a mounting realisation among employers that democratic trends will force them to take on older workers.
Richard Goldie, chief executive of the Macmillan Davies Agency, said companies needed to realise that during the next decade the number of job seekers over the age of 35 would rise, while those under the age of 34 would fall.
Anne Riley, chief executive of Austin Knight, another leading recruitment firm, said that the initiative coincided with improving business confidence. "There is more recruitment but there are signs of skill shortages in information technology. To fill these vacancies, employers will have to recognise that age is no longer a legitimate factor in recruitment."
Richard Worsley, director of the programme, said that winning the support of recruitment advertising agencies would be a "crucial turning point in exposing the fallacy that anyone can tell from a person's age whether they have what it takes to employ them".Reuse content