Select Committee on Education and Employment Seventh Report


1.Both older and younger people can be disadvantaged in the labour market. The lack of robust statistical analysis on the extent of that disadvantage does not undermine the thrust of the evidence we have seen which leads us to infer that age discrimination does occur in employment (paragraph 3).
2.Only if there is robust information on the prevalence of age discrimination can effective policies to combat it be designed and properly evaluated. The Government should commission research accordingly (paragraph 4).
3.The Government's presentation of the business case is persuasive but has not been convincing enough to stimulate change on the part of employers. In view of the tight labour market conditions and severe skills shortages in some sectors, the Government has a unique opportunity to advance more powerfully the business case in favour of age diversity. We recommend that it does so with urgency (paragraph 16).
4.We have in, a previous Report, emphasised the scope for better co-ordination between supply-side measures, such as New Deal, and demand-side measures which effect employers' behaviour. Similarly, if age diversity in employment is to be achieved, there must be synergy between regeneration initiatives, employment assistance programmes and anti-discrimination measures. Tackling age discrimination and the increase in the number of those claiming incapacity benefit requires a co-ordinated approach which recognises the differences in competitiveness and gross domestic product per head between regions. We recommend that the Regional Development Agencies should include achieving age diversity as a priority within the regional employment action plans which it has been tasked to develop. Regional Development Agencies however cannot be expected to provide the solution to a nationwide problem. The Government should address the multiple barriers to older people entering or re-entering employment. We recommend that the Working Age Agency should bring forward proposals, within a fixed time frame, to reduce those barriers (paragraph 19).
5.We welcome the Government's recognition that the Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment has not been sufficiently effective in combatting age discrimination and that further measures are necessary (paragraph 21).
6.We welcome the Government's commitment to consult widely on the terms of anti-discrimination legislation. We recommend that this consultation specifically invites consideration of the single commission model for implementing legislation (paragraph 23).
7.We recommend that the Government should redouble its efforts to promote the voluntary Code of Practice and extend the Code's influence in the period up to the implementation of legislation. The tight labour market and the changing demographic profile of the population makes this an urgent requirement. We recommend that the Government should report progress to the appropriate select committee in two years', in spring 2003 (paragraph 24).
8.We welcome the Government's commitment to flexible retirement but are concerned that exercising the derogation relating to occupational pensions may undermine progress towards this goal. We urge the Government to remove barriers to financial stability in retirement (paragraph 26).

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