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Age discrimination is widespread in UK organisations and many workers hold unrealistic perceptions about their own career prospects, according to new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

New Regulations will ban age discrimination in recruitment, promotion, training and the provision of benefits from October 2006. Companies wanting to set a retirement age of anything less than 65 will need to justify it objectively, and today's upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights will be abolished.

The results of the CIPD survey, undertaken together with the Chartered Management Institute among 2682 managers and personnel professionals, show that age discrimination persists in many organisations. Six in ten respondents (59 per cent) reported that they have been personally disadvantaged at work because of their age and nearly a quarter of those surveyed (22 per cent) admitted that age has an impact on their own recruitment decisions.

The research also revealed that almost half (48 per cent) of those surveyed had suffered age discrimination through job applications while 39 per cent believe their chances of promotion have been hindered by age discrimination.

This claim is backed up by individual perceptions of age where over half (63 per cent) of respondents believed that workers between the ages of 30–39 years old had the best promotion prospects, with only two per cent citing 50 year-olds or above.

A majority, (80 per cent) reported that they are hanging on to the expectation that they will personally retire by the age of 65, despite believing that the age of retirement for the average person in 10 years' time will be 66 or older. However, a third (29 per cent) of organisations already have no mandatory retirement age. This suggests that both individuals and organisations need to consider a step-change in how they perceive age and careers so that changes in demographics are met with a more flexible approach to career planning.

Dianah Worman, Diversity Adviser at the CIPD said, "Our research shows that most managers expect everyone to be retiring later within 10 years – except themselves. There is a growing acceptance that the average worker is going to stay at work beyond 65. But no-one seems to think it applies to them." She added that individuals "need take a reality check on their expectations of their own retirement age."

The evidence also suggests that current proposal to set a default retirement age of 65 is "a useless bureaucratic barrier, which needs to be either finessed or scrapped," says Worman. "If the objective of the legislation is to end age discrimination in the workplace and support older workers, this is likely to be counterproductive."

She urged the Government to focus its attention on extending flexible working arrangements, "to ensure that employers are able to make greater use of the skills and experience offered by older workers."

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