Legislation to outlaw "ageist" job advertisements which specify upper- age limits for applicants will be voted on in the Commons today.
David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, is attempting through his Private Member's Bill, to break the "last barrier" of workplace discrimination. He said discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, and disability were now all illegal and that legislation was urgently needed to deal with age bias.
The Bill, which has its second reading today, aims to make it an offence to publish job advertisements "with an actual or preferred upper-age limit". Mr Winnick said that a defeat in the Commons would not end the matter, as the debate had "put down a marker for the future".
Ian McCartney, Labour's employment spokesman, echoed Mr Winnick's comment when he pledged that an incoming Labour government would introduce legislation to deal with age discrimination. Labour yesterday released figures which claimed that the number of workers aged between 25 and 49 unable to find employment within two years or more had doubled since 1990 from 158,600 to 316,600.
The Liberal Democrats are backing the Bill. Their social security spokeswoman, Liz Lynne, said it was "a step in the right direction". Despite support from Age Concern and the Institute of Management, the Bill is unlikely to receive backing from the government benches.
The Institute of Directors warned that the measure would have little impact and urged MPs to vote against it. "We are also concerned that this attempt to regulate employment contracts could lead to greater regulatory interference in matters which are best resolved between individual employers and employees," said Ruth Lea,head of the IoD's policy unit.