Almost half of small business leaders in the Midlands are not aware of new age discrimination legislation coming into effect next year.
Research released from AXA suggests that 49 per cent of the region's SMEs have no knowledge of the change in law .
Of those who are aware, 41 per cent haven't begun to take action to address its implications.
From October 2006, legislation will be introduced that is expected to outlaw age discrimination in employment.
The most obvious impact of the new legislation will be on retirement ages, where organisations will have to offer flexible retirement policies, but the legislation is likely to have a much wider impact.
Nationally, 65 per cent of the UK's 3.8 million small to medium sized businesses could be vulnerable to age discrimination claims, if they don't review working practices.
More than half of SME managers questioned in the Midlands (58 per cent) expressed concern about the negative effect of increased employers' liability likely to be incurred with an older workforce, and 38 per cent are worried about having to fund longer pension plans.
Nationally, 30 per cent agreed that the potential of an older workforce is a positive thing for UK business, compared to only 14 per cent who see it as negative.
Lou Macari, head of business consultancy and training at AXA, said: "By 2006 there will be more 55-64 year olds than 16-24 year olds in the UK.
"The impending age discrimination legislation is a timely reminder that all businesses need to adapt to support the new profile of the UK workforce.
"Older workers offer years of experience and can instil a greater sense of continuity in companies while younger workers tend to move between businesses and industries on a regular basis.
"However, considerations such as training, flexible working and increased expenditure on pensions, employers' liability and healthcare insurance, will have a more noticeable impact on cash-conscious SMEs than big corporates." ..SUPL: