July 20, 2008
Old Git Jokers Buried
By NIGEL NELSON
JOKES at work about colleagues having "one foot in the grave" and being "over the hill" are to be OUTLAWED to spare the feelings of older staff.Bosses will be told to treat ageism jokes against Victor Mildrew- type characters as harshly as sexism and racism. Ministers are already drawing up penalties for offenders. Pensions minister Mike O'Brien said: "Forty years ago racism and sexism were the acceptable face of prejudice. Now it's ageism. We must motivate individuals and business to change attitudes and behaviour."
The warning comes as a report from University College London last week predicted that by 2012 more than 750,000 men and women over 65 will still be working.
And nearly a third of men aged over 60 now expect to be working beyond official retirement.
Mr O'Brien is to seek views on how ageists can be most effectively dealt with and will put the proposals to MPs next spring.
Age discrimination in the workplace is already illegal but Mr O'Brien thinks a crackdown on upsetting banter is needed. He said: "We need a new language for old age. Creating equality for all regardless of age is more important than ever."
Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, said employment tribunals must clamp down.
He said: "We must think about older people in a more upbeat and constructive way."
Age Concern said: "Ageist language is a real problem. We need a big shift in attitudes to put it on a par with racism and sexism."
Last year the number of pensioners in the UK outstripped the number of under-16s for the first time. The Government believes the ageing population is the greatest challenge facing Britain next to terrorism and climate change.
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