More than a third of workers say they have been discriminated against because of their age, while half believe that discrimination is a common feature of their workplace, according to a report published today.
A survey by the recruitment organisation Austin Knight of 967 employees showed that 36 per cent felt that their age had worked against them. The figure rose for those over the age of 40, with 39 per cent feeling that their age had been a handicap to their careers.
This was the finding of a former construction executive, Peter Cook, who thought that experience mattered more than age, until at 62 he tried to get a new job. "I must have sent off 200 applications over 18 months," he said. "Everyone told me I was extremely qualified but that my age was a problem. The agencies told me that their clients had all stipulated an upper age limit."
Toni Townsend, divisional director of Austin Knight, said: "There is no legislation against age discrimination and I think people felt it was really hurting their working lives. We were fairly surprised at the extent of the problem."
According to the report - Equality at Work - sex was the second most common area of discrimination, with 37 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men believing their sex had counted against them.
More than a quarter of all women felt they had suffered in the workplace because of their family responsibilities, compared with 18 per cent of the population as a whole.
Among all those questioned, 17 per cent felt they had suffered racial discrimination, but for ethnic minority groups this rose to 65 per cent. Likewise, 58 per cent of those registered disabled felt they had been discriminated against because of their disability.
Many of those surveyed felt that their employers, despite using Equal Opportunities statements on their job advertisements, were not actually committed to equal opportunities in practice.
Yet 78 per cent still believed that Equal Opportunities statements were an important part of a job advertisement.
Mr Cook eventually got a job as a DIY adviser at B&Q, which operates a policy of positive discrimination when it comes to employing older workers. "It's heartening to find that some people still value age and experience. There must be At B&Q they appreciate you, as do the customers, even the young ones," Mr Cook said.