OF course we should work longer before becoming entitled to receive our state old-age pensions. I understand that the principle of retirement at the age of 65 was established in the second half of the nineteenth century, when life expectancy was about 50. It is now about 80. If, as Ray Fleming writes (Majorca Daily Bulletin, 1 December) few employers want older workers, it is time that equal opportunities legislation covered age. For over a quarter of a century, the law has provided remedies for discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or religion, but age has always been excluded. A few enlightened employers have incorporated measures, which aim at removing ageism from their corporate human resources policies. One such company is the building society, Nationwide, which decided to increase the proportion of its over 50 workers, with a consequent improvement in absenteeism and turnover rates. When B&Q, the DIY store, set up an experimental branch staffed by over 50s, they found that productivity was excellent, because as a report by the Institute for Employment Studies concluded, the over 50s are more reliable. Furthermore it has been noted that older employees often demonstrate a greater pride in their work and more loyalty to their employers, than do their twenty or thirty something colleagues. Not a few organisations, who claim they follow an equal opportunities policy demonstrate an irrational prejudice against older people. Especially in businesses in which communication skills are important, this does not make sense, given that older people generally outshine younger people in this area. Managers who are responsible for hiring and firing should realise that it is in their own best interests to do more of the former and less of the latter, as far as older workers are concerned.
George Tunnell Calle Llaud, Calvia
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