EIGHTH SPECIAL REPORT
The Education and Employment Committee has agreed
to the following Special Report:
GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO THE SEVENTH REPORT
FROM THE EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE, SESSION 2000-01
AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT
The Education and Employment Committee reported to
the House on Age Discrimination in Employment in its Seventh Report
of Session 2000-01, published on 27 March 2001 as HC 259. The
Government's response to that Report was received on 8 May 2001.
The response is reproduced as an Annex to this Special Report.
RESPONSE FROM THE DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION
The Select Committee's recommendations are in bold
text and numbered as per the 'Summary of Recommendations'.
The Government's response is in plain text.
The Government welcomes this report and is pleased
to be able to confirm that we are making good progress on all
the recommendations the select committee identified. We do however,
fully accept that this is not a time to be complacent and that
further work is needed.
A comprehensive answer on each of the recommendations
is provided belowwhere some of the responses cover more
than one issue, references to the relevant response have been
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.
The Government agrees with the statement that both
young and old people can face disadvantage in the labour market.
A key part of our strategy has been to challenge these cultural
stereotypes and promote a recognition that people should be considered
for their skills and abilities not their age. A comprehensive
consultation carried out in 1997 mirrored the Committee's concerns
and identified that although age discrimination was recognised
as a problem, there was little evidence to show how widespread
the problem was.
As with all forms of discrimination, the consultation
found it difficult to provide a robust analysis on the extent
to which age discrimination exists in the workplace. This is because
the main body of available research evidence is based on subjective
accounts of the extent to which people believe that they have
experienced discrimination on the grounds of their age.
We decided nevertheless that a non-statutory Code
of Practice plus comprehensive research and evaluation would be
the best way to inform future decisions on age issues. In June
1999 we launched the Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment,
supported by another quantitative evaluation and research. (See
responses to 2 and 8.)
A thorough evaluation of the Code carried out over
19 months by an independent research company National Opinion
Polls: Social and Political, was completed at the beginning of
this year. The early findings from the evaluation found that approximately
1 in 4 people felt that they had experienced age discrimination
at some point in their working lives. This finding is based on
a random sample of older people, defined as those aged 50 to 69
years, surveyed over 3 waves. A new sample was selected at each
wave. The results from this and our other related research including
a qualitative project looking at young people's experiences of
age discrimination, are now being analysed and are providing the
evidence needed to formulate developing policies. The full results
of all our evaluation will be published Summer 2001.
In addition to the Code, in 1998 we made a commitment
to publish annually Key Indicators showing the position of older
workers in the labour market . The last figures published in June
2000 showed that the number of people over 50 in work had risen
by 2.4% (131,000) and that the number of people aged 50, unemployed
and claiming benefit had dropped by 30,100, from 225,500 in 1999
to 195,400 in 2000. Disappointingly, there was no change in the
number of economically inactive people aged between 50state
pension age in the year.
These figures were published in the September edition
of the Labour Market Trends magazine and the November edition
of Equal Opportunity Review.
We will continue to undertake research both to improve
our understanding of age disadvantage in the labour market and
to support our campaign to challenge age discrimination at work.
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. (Response 1 also applies)
The Government is aware of the need for robust data
on age discrimination. For this reason over the last two years,
we have commissioned a comprehensive range of age research to
help inform our future work.
As mentioned previously, we have carried out a full
evaluation in three stages (waves) over a period of 19 months
on the impact of the Code. This focussed on identifying changes
in indicative levels of age discrimination throughout the employment
cycle since the Code was published. Early key findings from the
final stage of the evaluation, which were published in a research
summary on the 27th March 2001, show that the proportion of companies
who say they take account of age in selection and recruitment
has more than halved since before the Code was issued, decreasing
from 27 per cent in wave 1 to 13 per cent in wave 3. The full
report is due to be published Summer 2001.
A wide range of supporting research has also been
commissioned focusing on specific areas where age is considered
an issue. These reports are:
Factors Affecting Retirement Behaviourlooking
at the reasons people leave the labour market both in the UK and
abroadpublished November 2000;
Training Older Peopleexamining how older people
fared in comparison to other age groups on three government supported
employment and training initiativesWork Based Learning
for Adults, Programme Centres and Work Trialspublished
Research Summaryreporting early findings on
the Code evaluation and three other research projectspublished
Reports due to be published Summer 2001 include:
Case StudiesExamples of Employer Good Practice
in recruiting and retaining older workers practical examples
of how small, medium and large employers operate an age diverse
AgeismThe Attitudes and Experiences of Young
Peoplelooking at young peoples experiences of age discrimination;
Age Restriction in Occupational Sectorslooking
at the existing restrictions in occupational sectors and whether
they are justified.
We are aware that although there is a lot of research
literature published, there is a lack of statistical information
or long-term research literature which is robust and consistent
and which focuses on the issue of age discrimination.
Our research programme starts to address this problem
and is only now beginning to deliver results. We hope it will
provide the information we need to better tackle the issues and
design effective policy and workable legislation.
Our new research for 2001-02 will take forward some
of the findings from our current research and look in more depth
at the labour market patterns of older unemployed and inactive
people, considering their attitudes and perceptions of policies
including progressive retirement and volunteering.
In addition to our own projects, we will work with
external providers and have regard to other research on age. This
provides an additional source of information which we can use
to inform our future work.
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
The Government agrees there is a need to increase
the profile of the business case for age diversity. (Responses
to 1, 2, 5 also apply.) We are aware that although the early findings
from the evaluation of the Code have shown some positive results,
including the fact that there has been an increased awareness
amongst employers, further work is needed. We also accept that
the welcome expansion of work opportunities in the economy and
the reduction in unemployment provides an opportunity to advance
the business case in a more receptive environment, with more employers
anxious to recruit and retain good people.
We will continue to advance the business case through
supporting the work of the Inter-Ministerial Group for Older People.
The IMG is currently taking forward varied strands of work focusing
on older people under the banner 'Life Begins at 50a better
society for older people'. This work is based on the conclusions
from the Performance Innovation Unit report 'Winning the Generation
Game' on improving opportunities for active ageing; the Better
Government for Older People report'All our Futures and
the findings from the Foresight Ageing Population Panel report
'The Age Shift'. This will all be considered in our future operational
We have three ongoing projects:
Case Studies of Employer Good Practice
in the Employment and Retention of Older Workers;
- Work with small/medium employers, looking
at positive examples of why they should adopt age diverse working
- Occupational Sector restrictions.
These projects will provide a range of information
which we will use to promote the business case for age positive
employment practices. This material will be ready for dissemination
In addition, we will continue to promote the business
case by targeting employers and sectors through trade press articles
and advertising, employer awards and other initiatives. We will
continue to work through our external partner network and through
our local and internal government department infrastructure.
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, employer 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
We agree with the Select Committee's recommendation
on the need for synergy between regeneration initiatives, employment
assistance programmes, and anti-discrimination measures. This
will be taken into account as age diversity is developed. (See
also response to 3, 5, 6 and 8.)
The Government will continue to work to provide a
co-ordinated programme of help for older people. For example:
New Deal 50plusThe
Chancellor's Budget provided extra money for developing and marketing
New Deal 50 plus. This programme has helped over 30,000 people
aged 50 and over move from benefits back to work since April 2000.
Further work is underway to encourage more training
and employment of older workers through 3rd Age Apprenticeships,
which is being piloted in certain industry sectors.
New Deal for Disabled PeopleIn
July this year, the national extension of NDDP will begin to make
a further contribution to the employment of people on Incapacity
Benefitsof whom over 50 per cent are aged 50 and over.
NDDP is the first programme to develop a systematic way of offering
work-focused help to long term sick and disabled people.
Regional Development AgenciesThe
Government will be discussing with the RDAs how to incorporate
age diversity within their regional economic strategies and employment
Jobcentre Plus (formerly
the Working Age Agency)In line with wider Government policies,
Jobcentre Plus will deliver Welfare to Work programmes e.g. New
Deal 50 plus and NDDP which will be expected to make a major contribution
to reducing the barriers which prevent older people entering or
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.
The Government is aware of the importance of consulting
widely on plans for legislation. The issue of a single commission
model is one of many options which would have extensive implications
for many Government departments and many groups within society.
We have already set up an Age Advisory Group, chaired
by Margaret Hodge, Minister for Employment and Equal Opportunities,
to advise on the issues to be addressed through the consultations
ahead. The Group includes organisations such as the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development, Small Business Service,
the CBI, the TUC, Employers Forum on Age, Age Concern, the Society
of Chief Personnel Officers, the National Council of National
Training Organisations, Third Age Employment Network, Scottish
Enterprise, the Institute of Management and the British Chambers
The Group will help to clarify good practice in avoiding
age discrimination and identify what constitutes unjustifiable
practice in employment, vocational training and vocational guidance.
It will also advise on ways of achieving cultural and attitudinal
5. We welcome the Government's recognition that
the Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment has not been
sufficiently effective in combating age discrimination and that
further measures are necessary.
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.
The Government will continue to build on earlier
work on the Code of Practice to promote the business case for
ending age discrimination in employment. The campaign will move
forward with the launch of the new Age Positive branding and will
build on the progress made with extending awareness and use of
the Code. To date over 68,000 copies of the Code have been issued
and evaluation of the Code indicates that over a third of employers
are aware of it. Following their success in 2000, we will run
the national age awards for a second time in 2001, including the
Age Diversity in Recruitment Awards of Excellence, and the Regional
In addition, we will continue to focus on specific
markets by publishing articles and adverts in specially targeted
trade press and by maintaining a strong presence at trade shows
and exhibitions which will raise the profile of both the Code
and age discrimination issues.
A new Age Positive website will go live during Summer
2001. This website will provide an easily accessible bank of advice
and informationincluding details of policy developments
and forthcoming campaign activities, contact numbers, hypertext
links to other useful sites such as other portals providing advice
on training, retirement and general information for the public,
for example, the DSS Retirement Portal. It will also include all
the latest age research and statistical information. The information
will be equally valuable for employers, employees and the general
We have also now established Equality Direct, a confidential
advice service for employers and managers, providing free advice
and information on equality issues including age. It has been
designed with small businesses in mind.
Other measures will be related to the UK commitment
to legislate against age discrimination in employment by 2006,
following our signing of the EU Directive on Equal Treatment in
October last year. (Response to 6 also applies.)
An extensive consultation with employers, individuals,
and expert groups on age good practice, including the implications
for retirement ages will have the added effect of raising the
profile of the business case for age positive employment practices.
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.
We welcome the committee's recommendation and are
already working on ways to promote flexible or phased retirement.
However, the issues surrounding pensions are complex
and changes have important legislative, tax and National Insurance
issues which need to be considered. The Inland Revenue and the
Department of Social Security are working on this and reviewing
many aspects of the pension system. There is close working between
all Departments but due to the complexity of the issues progress
cannot be hurried. The report is due at the end of 2001.