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To: All managers

From: Human Resources Director

Subject: Age Discrimination

As you will be aware the government is currently consulting on age discrimination legislation, which will impact on all businesses. Our company is determined to stay ahead of the curve in good practice.

It is no longer acceptable to sack people just because they are over 50, nor can we tolerate moves designed to ease them out, like putting them on the top floor and ensuring the lift never works. Individuals should be judged on their merit, not their years. There’s no such thing as over the hill; there’s only age pioneers.

We will have to pay special attention to our recruiting practices. Some previously accepted procedures will soon be deemed inappropriate in the new climate. All job ads should be cleared by our age awareness unit (situated in the equality compliance wing, between the physically challenged and gender-benders).

Adverts may no longer say the successful applicants will be energetic, dynamic and vibrant. We must show we are also ready to consider the lethargic, listless and moribund. Our legal advisers are working on some alternative formulations, like “must have own teeth/rollerblades”. We may also institute written exams on MTV Base and the songs of Pete Doherty.

The graduate “milk round” may have to go unless it is part of a wider employment strategy that does not preclude older workers from low-paid entry-level jobs. Otherwise we face litigation from 45-year-old bankers whose mid-life crisis has left them seeking a career change and who can afford to live on a trainee’s wage.

Another issue is work experience, which is often a short cut into a job and so can no longer be available only to the young. HSBC faced such criticism for offering a placement to Prince William. It has had to give the same opportunities to the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Michael of Kent, neither of whom even knows how to use a photocopier. Failure to be age-blind on this could lead to legal action, possibly by 45-year-old bankers whose mid-life crisis has left them unsure which new career to choose. In general, any opportunities for the young must be matched by equal chances for the “young at heart”. A few adverts in Saga will not get us off the hook. We need to be advertising in The Guardian, Woman’s Own, What Car? and Mid-Life Banker magazines. We are also rethinking long-service benefits, which will now be offered to anyone who has been with us for more than 10 weeks.

Another issue is retirement age. Ministers have agreed to a default retirement age of 65. This must now be vigorously enforced. Any exceptions – no matter how justified – expose us to complaints from those not granted similar extensions. There are, of course, many fine people who would like to stay on and who we would be happy to keep. But frankly we cannot take the risk of giving them even one more day. Managers must inform HR of any impending 65th birthdays, so we can mark the happy event with cake, a glass of bubbly and a visit from security.

Further information will follow, so you should regularly visit our internal website at bulletinboard/uk/wrinklies.

A doctor writes

Our regular feature in which readers seek the advice of medical expert and Tory leadership candidate Liam Fox

Dear Dr Fox,

A colleague took drugs in his past. Can I trust him with a big promotion?

Dr Fox writes: As a doctor I am often asked whether someone with a history of drug-taking can ever be leader of the Conservative party. My answer is “no”. I have seen the damage drugs can do, especially in the hands of the Daily Mail. While it may not be obvious yet, the narcotics may seriously have rotted your friend’s brain. Best not take the risk.

Dear Dr Fox,

My young friend David comes from a highly privileged background. I worry that he is badly out of touch with ordinary people and wonder if he will cope with serious responsibility.

Dr Fox writes: As a doctor I am often asked, can an old Etonian become leader of the Conservative party? My answer is “no”. His toffee-nosed carousing will never give him the rounded personality of, say, a Kilbride High School-educated man of the people. Best not take the risk.

Dear Dr Fox,

My good friend David is 56 and losing momentum fast. What can I do to revive him?

Dr Fox writes: As a doctor I am often asked if it is possible to restore a washed-up old no-mark who no longer has what it takes. My answer is “no”. We do friends no service by artificially prolonging their existence and letting them obstruct the path of younger, fitter, prettier men. However painful, the kindest thing is to just let them slip away. Even if he seems to recover, he’ll be a shell of his old self. Best not take the risk.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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