Labour to outlaw age bias at work

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Tony Blair has pledged a future Labour government to ban job discrimination on grounds of age. A letter from Ian McCartney, a shadow employment minister, to a leading over-50s pressure group, sent at Mr Blair's instigation, promises to "introduce legislation to make age discrimination illegal, just as discrimination on grounds of race and sex are today".

The letter to the Association of Retired Persons Over 50 (ARP), which campaigns on behalf of 18 million people, says Labour is consulting on the form of such legislation. But it adds: "Our commitment is clear: age discrimination has no place in a modern economy and we will take steps to remove it."

Don Steele, ARP's executive director, said: "This is the first time that any major political party has promised legislation to end age discrimination. Discrimination is rife in all phases of employment, including hiring practices, promotion opportunities and training."

The Labour pledge would "go a long way towards turning the tide against the widely accepted practice of excluding older people from employment by means of early retirement and voluntary redundancy".

Mr McCartney said in his letter: "If we throw people out of the labour market at 40-plus, many families will not be able to maintain themselves for 40 or more years without becoming reliant on state support . . . the state will simply not be able to keep up with the costs of age discrimination." Industry also benefited from the skills and experience of older workers.

In the first case of its kind last year, an industrial tribunal ruled unlawful a redundancy policy of sacking all workers over 59. But that case was brought under the unfair dismissal laws, not any rule against ageism.

Leading article, page 14

Jack Straw, page 14