People Management: Three minutes with David Sinclair, policy manager, Help the Aged

Do you think the legislation on age discrimination will make a real difference?

Legislation due to be introduced in October 2006 will make age discrimination illegal for the first time, but it is not expected to bring about the abolition of the mandatory retirement age, for which we have campaigned over the past five years. This is despite the fact that a European directive that comes into force at the same time will do just that.

Why do you feel the mandatory retirement age is wrong?

Although relatively few older people would choose to work beyond retirement age, it's all about choice. We feel that it's the simplest form of age discrimination to pinpoint and would therefore pave the way for better employment practices right across the board.

What other benefits are there to people working longer?

The National Audit Office estimates that the mandatory retirement age costs the economy between £19bn and £31bn a year. We've got an ageing population and a skills shortage. Older people tend to be more reliable and take fewer days off.

What other forms of age discrimination are there?

It can also be an issue when employing people and deciding which employees should receive training. Older people are often first hit when redundancies are made, too. A particular issue for the sector to consider is volunteers - we believe that it's absolutely wrong for someone to be forced to stop volunteering or working just because of their age.

Will the legislation benefit only older people?

Not at all. We believe it will help young people applying for jobs too.

If an individual can prove they are up to the job, then it shouldn't necessarily be a requirement for them to have done a certain numbers of years in a position. It's about recognising people's potential - setting arbitrary standards is just lazy.

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