Armed forces try to avoid anti-ageist law

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The Independent Online

Britain was last night holding out for key concessions from a package of European Union workplace rights to exempt the armed forces from having to guarantee equality to older and disabled people.

Britain was last night holding out for key concessions from a package of European Union workplace rights to exempt the armed forces from having to guarantee equality to older and disabled people.

After three hours of tough talking, ministers from the 15 member states were still locked in battle over a controversial new directive to impose legal sanctions against employers which discriminate against their workers.

The package also aims to protect workers from discrimination on grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation, in the selection of employees, their promotion and their working conditions. The Ministry of Defence accepts the need for equality in most of these areas but not in disability and age, as combat readiness is a key factor, it says.

A recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights ruled against discrimination against gays, and increased opposition to further changes among the chiefs of staff.

As well as the exemption for the armed forces, the UK was demanding up to eight years to put the law into practice.

Meanwhile Ireland was calling for separate concessions to proposed laws against religious discrimination to protect teacher recruitment policies in both Catholic and Protestant schools. The package was being backed strongly by campaigners for older workers.

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